• The Middle East is an urban environment.
• More than 60% of the people of the
Middle East live in towns and cities of
50,000 or more.
• HISTORY OF MIDDLE EAST URBAN
WARFARE. THE RECENT PAST
– Jerusalem in 48
– Gaza in 56
– Jerusalem in 67
– Amman in 1970 (PLO vs JAA)
– Suez City in 1973
– Beirut (75 to 91)
– Khoramshahr in 1980
• Tyre, Sidon, and Beirut in 1972
• 1980 and 1982 Muslim Brotherhood
uprising in Hamah and Aleppo
• Intifadah I in Palestine 1987
• US in Mogadishu in 1993
• Intifadah II in 2000
• Jenin 2002
URBAN WARFARE I
• Arab Culture and urban Warfare
– Urban warfare preferred method
– Better at set piece defensive battles, minimize
offensive warfare, combined arms, and
– Arabs have skill and have shown determination
in past urban warfare.
– Examples include Beirut, Gaza, Jerusalem,
Amman and Jenin.
Urban warfare II
• Urban warfare puts premium on deception,
political and media warfare, less on C3 and
• Often the defender is fighting for home and
family as well as a cause.
• He will know the urban terrain
Nature of Middle East Cities.I
• Stone, cement composition of buildings
• Walled in courtyards, with gardens
• Narrow twisting streets and blind alleys
• Haphazard growth, street addresses rare.
• Inadequate municipal services or non-
• Sewage, water supply, lacking. Water tanks
on top of houses.
Nature of Middle Eastern Cities
• Ethnic religious quarters, patrilocal families
• Lack of civil society,or civic responsibility
• Neighborhoods run by za’ims. (Godfathers)
• Massive overcrowding.Arab view of privacy
• Dense squatter settlements on outskirts
• Each city has own history. Great rivalries among
cities and between rural and urban people.
Nature of Middle East Cities III
• Demographically tend to have higher population
of young unmarried males
• People tend to settle in areas ethnically or
religiously segregated. Ex. Chia district in Beirut
• Increased sectarianism seems to have replaced
extended family ties in the city.
• Higher social classes tend to congregate in mixed
religious, or ethnic neigborhoods
• There is very little local city government. All
centralized at national level
Nature of Middle East Cities IV
• Using a buzzword….cities are the “center of
• “The Arab city is not only a center of
industry,commerce and finance but also
administration and jurisdiction, of religion and
culture.Activity in all these field is concentrated in
the city, to the almost complete exclusion in the
– Gabriel Baer, Population and Society in the Middle
• Anthony Cordesman depicted 3 basic types
of middle east urban war
Urban Warfare Approach 1
• Urban light
– Use missiles or air attack on key targets
– Quick commando raids against key targets or
– Israelis have used this method many times
– Limited success. Civilian casualties, excessive
collateral damage. Absolute need for precise
real time intelligence.
Urban War;Approach 2
• Fight on equal terms. Use same type
weapons as defenders, e.g., avoid use of
heavy weapons such as armor and artillery.
• This was the method used in Jenin and it
cost the Israelis heavily. Not using main
tank gun or artillery gives advantage to
defender but minimizes civilian casualties.
Urban Warfare ;Approach 3
• Using decisive force to destroy insurgents
• If the command or ruler cares little for
amount of damage or civilian casualties.
• This has proved most successful in Middle
• Example Hamah and Aleppo in Syria
• WAYS IN WHICH NON-COMBATANTS
AFFECT URBAN COMBAT IN THE
Impact of non-combatants on
urban conflict I
• Mobility of attacker is slowed by massive
refugee exodus. Defender can use as shields
or as a distraction and delay in order to re-
supply and regroup. The Palestinians have
used this ploy a number of times.
• Example. Palestinian fighter boasted of this
type ploy as being effective in Jenin
fighting with Israelis.
• Civilians in the Middle East conflicts often
try to stay in their homes despite the
carnage around them. This surprising trend
can be partially answered by the historical
truism in the Middle East that if you leave
your home you will not live there again. A
lesson learned by Palestinians, Separdin
Jews, Assyrians, Armenians, Kurds, and
• Use of firepower by attacker is severely
curtailed by presence of civilians
(assuming humanitarian principles are
applied). Israeli attacks on several
Palestinian camps in 1982 were virtually
dictated tactically by presence of civilians.
Could only fire at buildings from which
incoming fire was observed.
A problem if they leave; A
problem if They do not.
• The presence of civilians in the combat areas also
leads to pilferage,sabotage, and terrorism.
• Troops entering homes in the combat areas also
leads to vandalism, stealing, and the presence of
helpless intimidated civilians can easily lead to
crimes such as rape. Discipline erodes.
• This was the story of the Israeli invasion of
Lebanon in 1982. Initially greeted as liberators
from Palestinian oppression, ill-discipline among
some IDF units created deep hostility.
• The psychological impact on soldiers also
– The feeling of isolation in the closed-in
structures as well as a feeling that the battlefield
is all around you
– The impact of seeing the suffering of innocent
Both factors have had an adverse effect on IDF
soldiers in Lebanon and Palestinian battles,e.g,.
Reservists walking away from battlefield, etc.
• Maintaining law and order always a major issue in
Middle East. The prevalence of revenge for past
injustices or insults, tribal, sectarian and
ideological hatreds spill over into orgies of killing
• A major example was the massacre of Palestinian
civilians in Lebanese refugee camps after Israelis
had secured the area This was in retaliation for
earlier killing and raping of Christians in Damour
by Muslim and Palestinian militia.
Sabra and Shatilla
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a
• The Media is unlikely to be your friend in city
combat. “If it bleeds it leads”. The journalists will
see the aftermath….the destruction, the civilian
suffering, stories of ill-treatment etc…not likely to
observe civilians used as human shields, the fire
coming from the buildings, the intensity of combat
or understand the psychological handicap of
seldom knowing where the fire is coming from or
from whom. As David Hackworth famously
observed about journalists in the Gulf war . “Most
journalists do not know a tank from a turd”
Guilty until proven innocent!
• Jenin 'massacre evidence growing'
18 April 2002
• Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin
• 'No Jenin massacre' says rights
• (IDF attack on Jenin following
suicide bombing of bus.)
• To state the obvious. The role and effectiveness of
the civil affairs and psychological operations will
decide the middle and long term success or failure
of the enterprise. They must work in tandem with
one another and with the local leadership from the
previous regime. To a large measure the success or
failure of the post-tactical operations will be
dependent on how CA and Psyops do their jobs
• The level of Psyops and Civil Affairs
effectiveness will be directly proportional to
the amount of study, particularly of religion,
society, culture, and history, in preparation
for the operation.