Conflicts & War

Lions’ Den, a newly-formed Palestinian militia alarming Israel

By Sara Gomez Armas

Jerusalem, Oct 19 (EFE).- The Lion’s Den, a newly-formed armed Palestinian group, came into the spotlight in the West Bank city of Nablus only a little over a month ago, although its members, dressed in all black, have been carrying out attacks against Israeli forces for months now.

The group’s name had not emerged in the media until a few weeks ago. Its rapid rise is alarming security forces in the most violent year in the region since 2015, with 120 Palestinians and 22 Israelis killed so far.

On September 2, its 30 members, aged between 17 and 25, walked the streets of Nablus to establish themselves as a new armed group, with no links to the traditional Palestinian militias and political factions.

Since then, attacks against Israeli settlers around Nablus have increased, as well as confrontations with Israeli troops, who, in turn, intensified their raids in the region.

“They have conducted about 20 attacks over the past two weeks,” an Israeli military spokesman tells Efe, blaming their rise on a power vacuum created by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the northern West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin.

These areas become “war zones” when Israeli troops enter them due to an increase in illicit firearms, according to the spokesman. So far this year, Israel has confiscated more than 300 weapons, triple the number recorded in 2021.

“They used to throw Molotov cocktails at us before, now they shoot at us directly,” he says.

Over the weekend, Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid held an emergency cabinet meeting to address the threat, while almost all Israeli operations have directed their focus on the Lions’ Den in the last month.

The PNA is also “extremely concerned” about the rise of the group since they could end up taking control of the streets, Mohammed Daraghmeh, a Palestinian journalist and analyst, points out.

Most of the group’s members come from families linked to the ruling Fatah faction but they are willing to team up with any militia, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in their fight against the Israeli occupation.

“They are a completely new phenomenon in the Palestinian arena,” says Daraghmeh, explaining that despite their secular upbringing, these young people declare themselves religious from a spiritual point of view.

The Lions’ Den gets its weapons mainly from Hamas, according to Daraghmeh.

“They buy them on the Palestinian black market, where an automatic rifle costs between $15,000 and $20,000.”

The group has been spreading among young people, thanks to social media networks like Telegram and TikTok. The latter had the group’s account closed recently for violating rules after posting an Israeli drone photo.

Social media has contributed to making new symbols of the Palestinian cause such as 18-year-old Ibrahim Nabulsi, who founded the Lions’ Den less than a year ago with 26-year-old Adham Mabrouka, 22-year-old Mohamed Dakhil and 21-year-old Ashraf Mubaslat.

The last three were killed during an Israeli raid in February but Nabulsi managed to evade the troops for months until he died in another incursion in August and became a hero on social media.

“They are the result of the frustration and lack of expectations among an entire generation,” Palestinian analyst Sam Bahour explains to Efe.

Both Bahour and Daraghmeh believe that the militia will soon disappear due to the absence of political support, but they predict more violence and deaths in the short term.

“The Palestinian experience highlights that violence without political support does not last in the long term,” Bahour adds. EFE

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