A look back at some of the most striking images, events and news from across the Middle East in 2021.
Israel-Palestinian violence returns
The long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians hadn’t seen anything like it for years. In May 2021, 11 days of escalating violence sparked by rising tensions in Jerusalem, around holy sites and the east of the city, would eventually leave more than 250 dead, including more than 100 children. Thousands were wounded.
Most of the fatalities would be in Gaza. Israeli airstrikes inflicted huge damage on the Hamas controlled territory, launched in response to the group's rocket fire. Several high-rise buildings were destroyed.
The tensions were rooted in history, but the 2020 Abraham Accords were also blamed for inflaming the situation significantly. Brokered by Washington, the deal normalised relations between Israel and four Arab countries - the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan - arguably, isolating the Palestinians.
Eventually, a fragile truce was forged with the help of Egypt. The Israeli government unanimously approved it. Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to respect it. Both sides celebrated what they called "their own victory”
Lebanon's crisis goes from bad to worse
In Lebanon, tensions in the deeply divided country finally boiled over in October. The capital Beirut became a war zone as sectarian clashes erupted on the streets over an inquiry into last year’s deadly port blast. Hezbollah and its allies wanted the judge leading the probe to be removed. At least six people were shot dead in the gun battle, more than thirty were wounded.
The chaos on the city's streets could be traced back to August 4 2020. Hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate engulfed the Lebanese capital's port, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands. Whole neighbourhoods were also completely wiped off the map. It was later discovered that the substance had been stored improperly.
In September, following months of political paralysis, the country finally got a new government and prime minister, in the shape of Najib Mikati.
But the social, political and economic challenges facing Lebanon’s new administration look to be some of the severest in the nation’s history. Amid soaring unemployment and inflation, Lebanon's currency has collapsed, while electricity fuel and medicine still remain in short supply.
Pope's mission of peace
The turmoil in Lebanon was in stark contrast to earlier in the year when Pope Francis visited Iraq In March.
One of the most symbolic moments was his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the spiritual leader for millions of Shia Muslims. The two men would later pray together in the holy city of Najaf.
Despite fears over security and the coronavirus, the Pontiff's message was one of inter-faith tolerance and peace. For many minorities that had meaning, given that more than a million Christians in recent times had been driven out of the country.
The four-day trip would see the head of the Catholic Church pray for victims in Mosul - a city left in ruins by Islamic State. Before leaving, Francis also celebrated mass at a football stadium in the Iraqi-Kurdish city of Erbil.