Elections, Military Escalations, Attempted Coups & Assassinations: Middle East, North Africa in 2021

© REUTERS / AMMAR AWADPalestinian demonstrators look at burning tyres during a protest over tensions in Jerusalem and Israel-Gaza escalation, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 16 May 2021.
Palestinian demonstrators look at burning tyres during a protest over tensions in Jerusalem and Israel-Gaza escalation, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 16 May 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
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The year 2021 will be remembered for a number of inaugurations that have put new governments in place. Such was the case in Israel that saw the termination of Benjamin Netanyahu's more than decade-long tenure at the helm and in Iran, where a moderate Hassan Rouhani was replaced by the conservative Ebrahim Raisi.
2021 has been a year in which many nations across the Middle East and North Africa marked the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted long-time rulers and established a new world order.
But the outgoing year has also been filled with other events, and Sputnik has wrapped them up, summarising the most memorable.

January

3rd: Iran marks one year since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who was killed by a US military strike at the Baghdad International Airport.
Iran Commemorates Death Anniversary of General Qasem Soleimani  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.01.2021
Iran Commemorates Death Anniversary of General Qasem Soleimani
Thousands took to the streets of Tehran to commemorate the slain military leader. They chanted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans and vowed to take revenge for the crime that was committed.
5th: With varying degrees of enthusiasm, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain announce that they are ending their boycott of Qatar, imposed in 2017, following allegations that Doha has been supporting and funding extremists.
In this Friday, May 4, 2018, photo, a couple walk by the sea with the city skyline in the background, in Doha, Qatar - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.02.2021
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The practical meaning of that move was that the Gulf countries and Egypt resumed flights to the gas-rich nation. They have also restored trade relations and re-established diplomatic ties.
20th: The United States inaugurates its 46th President, Joe Biden. The new president's views have always been a concern for many Middle Eastern leaders. They have been wary of his intention to resume nuclear talks with Iran, the main challenger of several Sunni states in the region. They have also been on their toes because of Washington's plans to take a tougher approach to regional leaders' alleged human rights abuses.

February

1st: Kosovo becomes the 7th Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel, with the two states signing a memorandum of understanding. A month later, the partially recognised European state opened its embassy in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the US and Guatemala.
9th: The UAE becomes the fifth nation to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars, whose aim is to orbit the Red Planet. The Hope orbiter is also the Arab world's first interplanetary spacecraft - built from scratch in just six years.
This file photo taken on July 20, 2020, shows a screen broadcasting the launch of the Hope Mars probe at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.02.2021
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10th: Hamas holds secret elections, choosing who will take the helm of its political bureau and who will be in charge of the entire organisation.
The names of the contenders were held in complete secrecy, but several weeks later it was announced that Yehiya Sinwar, the man who was in charge of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, had remained in his place. Ismail Haniyeh was also unchallenged and continued to occupy his job as the head of the Islamic group's politburo and the man responsible for the organisation's ties with nations.
25th: The US military carries out its first airstrike in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq, under Joe Biden. The US claimed to have targeted Iran-backed Shia militia in retaliation for a rocket attack targeting an American base near Erbil Airport in northern Iraq that killed a US military contractor on 15 February.
 US soldiers stand near the landmark Hands of Victory, built by executed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to commemorate Iraq's victory in the Iran-Iraq war, inside Baghdad's Green Zone as they prepare to go on a mission on July 5, 2008 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.02.2021
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March

23rd: Israel goes to the polls for the fourth time in two years. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud wins that race gaining 30 of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, but the battle is far from over
© AFP 2022 / EMMANUEL DUNANDIn this file photo taken on March 24, 2021, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, addresses supporters at the party campaign headquarters in Jerusalem after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years.
In this file photo taken on March 24, 2021, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, addresses supporters at the party campaign headquarters in Jerusalem after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
In this file photo taken on March 24, 2021, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, addresses supporters at the party campaign headquarters in Jerusalem after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years.
Soon after the official results are announced, Netanyahu and his challenger, the leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, lock horns in trying to form a coalition and garnner the 61 signatures needed to get to the top position.

April

3rd: Jordan announces the arrest of nearly 20 people allegedly involved in a coup aimed at overthrowing the current monarch -- King Abdullah II. Several members of the royal family are believed to be involved as well as some elements of the security apparatus, leaders of tribes, and the political establishment. There have also been allegations of foreign involvement.
6th: The first round of nuclear talks with Iran kicks off in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
Representatives of Iran, Russia, China, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom met to discuss the resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the United States left unilaterally in 2018.
11th: Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment site goes through a power failure probably due to a deliberate explosion. Tehran, who has called the incident an act of "nuclear terrorism" immediately pinned the blame on Israel, allegations that Tel Aviv has neither denied nor confirmed.
Israeli officials have reiterated on a number of occasions that they will not let Iran become a nuclear power, fearing Tehran will use that ability to attack Israel.
A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken last week and obtained by Reuters on April 12, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.04.2021
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They have also vowed to do everything they can to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear independence.
30th: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas calls off the presidential and legislative elections that were set to take place later this year.
These were supposed to be the first polls in 15 years and the decision to postpone them caused an uproar among Palestinians.
Abbas blamed Israel for the situation, saying it prevented him from holding the elections in the eastern part of Jerusalem.
For their part, Israeli experts believed the real reason for Abbas' decision was his fear of competition, primarily from rival group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.
30th: 45 Orthodox Jews are killed and 150 others wounded in a stampede on Mount Meron amid the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'Omer.
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNUltra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance, April 30, 2021
Ultra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance, April 30, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
Ultra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance, April 30, 2021
A state probe is still underway to determine what led to the disaster, but eyewitnesses have already pointed the finger at the police for not reacting quickly enough, local authorities for not maintaining the site properly, and the previous government for ignoring the alarming signals.
May
10th: Israel launches "Operation Guardian of the Walls" in Gaza, in response to a barrage of rockets launched at many Israeli cities by militants from Hamas and other extremist groups.
Over the course of 12 days, Israel destroyed more than 1,500 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets, including launch sites, command centres, and weapons depots. But it also partially or fully devastated the Gaza Strip's infrastructure, including police stations, roads, hospitals, schools, and mosques. At least 250 Palestinians were killed, including militants from the radical groups.
The hostilities also left 13 Israelis dead, with Hamas firing 4,500 rockets into Israeli territory.
28th: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad wins a fourth term, with 95 percent of the vote in his favour. The 55-year-old is set to remain in power for the next seven years.
https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/syrias-president-bashar-al-assad-wins-fourth-term-office-with-951-votes-live-2021-05-27/
June
1st: The new head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, David Barnea, takes office. Not much is known about the man, who is taking one of the country's toughest jobs.
However, it is known that in his earlier years, he served in the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal unit, where he was praised for his ability to think outside of the box. Then, he worked as a senior business manager at an Israeli investment bank, and later he joined Mossad, where he rather rapidly climbed the ranks.
https://sputniknews.com/20210608/friendly-and-reliable-but-committed-to-israels-security-who-is-israels-new-mossad-chief-1083097116.html
12th: Algeria elects a parliament but the polls have an unexpectedly low turnout, with the Hirak, a mass protest movement that ousted Algeria's president in April 2019, boycotting the vote.
13th: Israel swears in its new government, ending Netanyahu's more than decade-long tenure at the helm of the country.
The new coalition is comprised of eight parties with rather opposing ideologies. All sit together in one government, whose aim is not only to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and multiple security and social challenges, but also to keep Netanyahu at bay.
18th: Iran holds presidential elections, with the conservative Ebrahim Raisi, winning the race. A staunch opponent of the West and a believer in Iran's nuclear programme, Raisi causes concerns in the West and in some parts of the Arab world.

July

15th: Thousands take to the streets in Iran's Khuzestan Province to protest against water shortages in the area, following the worst drought in 50 years.
Protesters clash with police forces, with several killed and injured in the process.
24th: A famous Palestinian activist, Nizar Binat, dies shortly after being arrested by Palestinian Authority security personnel.
The man was known for his criticism of the current Palestinian leadership and its alleged corruption, and this is why his death sparked allegations that he was assassinated by the forces he was constantly criticising. Some have even charged that his death was ordered by President Abbas himself.
The assassination led to mass protests in multiple locations across the West Bank, with Abbas' approval ratings dropping dramatically.
26th: Tunisia's President Kais Saied dismisses the government and freezes parliament in a move aimed at "fighting the hypocrisy, treachery, and robbery" of the political class.
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold flags during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's seizure of governing powers, in front of the parliament, in Tunis, Tunisia, November 14, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.12.2021
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Although thousands took to the streets of the capital in support of that move, some have said that the president launched a coup against the revolution and the Tunisian Constitution.

August

15th: In Central Asia, the Taliban* takes over Afghanistan amid a chaotic foreign troop pullout, sparking a massive exodus from the war-torn country.
© Sputnik / Stringer / Go to the mediabankTaliban fighters (a terrorist group banned in Russia) pose for a photo in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters (a terrorist group banned in Russia) pose for a photo in Kabul, Afghanistan.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
Taliban fighters (a terrorist group banned in Russia) pose for a photo in Kabul, Afghanistan.

September

17th: Former Algerian President Adelaide Bouteflika dies at 84, more than two years after he stepped down from his post.
Bouteflika governed the country for two decades before his resignation in April 2019 after massive street demonstrations.
October
1st: Dubai Expo 2020 opens its doors to the general public, a year after it was supposed to be launched. The mega event was delayed due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
Some 192 countries are taking part in the exhibition that will last until the end of March, and it is expected to draw 25 million visitors.
10th: Iraqis head to the polls to elect their parliament, which, in turn, elects a president and confirms a prime minister.
After a long count, it was announced that the political bloc led by Shiite leader Muqtada Al Sadr won the race, gaining 73 of 329 seats in the parliament.

November

7th: Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa Al Kadhimi survives an assassination attempt as an explosive-laden drone attacked his residence.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the assault that also injured several security personnel, but the general consensus was that it was carried out by pro-Iran militias.
Iraqi security forces. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.11.2021
UN Mission in Iraq Condemns Assassination Attempt Against Prime Minister
29th: The Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna after a five-month hiatus. The world powers met in a bid to save the 2015 deal and make sure that Iran doesn't reach a point of nuclear independence in exchange for lifting their sanctions.
The West is now facing tougher Iranian negotiators, who are part of the conservative government of Ebrahim Raisi.

December

2nd: The United Arab Emirates marks its 50th national day with grand celebrations in Dubai. Later, the nation announces it will no longer adhere to the Friday-Saturday weekend, opting for western customs instead.
9th: The US announces its military mission in Iraq is over, although local experts and politicians said soldiers would still remain but they will take more advisory and training roles.
12th: Miss Universe contestants descend on Israel to take part in the beauty pageant despite calls by BDS groups to boycott the event. Harnaaz Sandhu, the beauty queen of India, took home the title of Miss Universe 2021.
Miss Universe winner Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu poses in a bathing suit during the Miss Universe pageant at the Red Sea resort of Eilat, Israel December 13, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
India's Harnaaz Sandhu Becomes Miss Universe 2021 - Video
*The Taliban is an organisation under UN sanctions over terrorist activities.
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