Israel takes the fight straight into the heart of the Palestinian Lions' Den - analysis

Israeli security forces have gone on the offensive against the Lions’ Den, carrying out operations deep in the Casbah of Nablus where the group’s gunmen feel most secure.

A burned vehicle is seen outside the house of Palestinian group Lions' Den member Wadee Al-Houh, which was targeted during a raid by Israeli security forces, in Nablus in the West Bank, October 25, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)
A burned vehicle is seen outside the house of Palestinian group Lions' Den member Wadee Al-Houh, which was targeted during a raid by Israeli security forces, in Nablus in the West Bank, October 25, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

Israeli security forces have gone on the offensive against the Lions’ Den terrorist group, carrying out operations deep in the Casbah of Nablus, where its gunmen feel most secure.

The group – which was formed in response to Operation Break the Wave, the IDF crackdown on Palestinian terrorism – has been a thorn in the military’s side in recent weeks.

Though it is small, it has been able to carry out numerous shooting and bomb attacks against soldiers and civilians, including the drive-by shooting that killed St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch.

The operation on Tuesday morning targeted a main actor in the group, 31-year-old Wadi al-Houh. He is said to have been one of the founders of the group, along with Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, who was killed by security forces several weeks ago.

Houh not only fired toward troops on numerous occasions, he was also the middleman between bomb makers and weapons smugglers and Palestinians he sent out on attacks.

 A Palestinian militant takes part in the funeral of two Palestinian gunmen who were killed by IDF in a gun battle during a raid, in Nablus in the West Bank July 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA) A Palestinian militant takes part in the funeral of two Palestinian gunmen who were killed by IDF in a gun battle during a raid, in Nablus in the West Bank July 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

He was killed along with four other members of the Lions’ Den. And, despite the massive gunfire directed at troops, no security forces were hurt.

Israel's fight against terrorism

Fighting terrorism is nothing new for Israeli security forces. From state-sponsored terrorism to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the IDF, Border Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have been handling this fight for decades.

But the fight against the Lions’ Den is different. The group is not Hamas, and is not organized like the Gaza-based terrorist group. It has a number of heavily armed young Palestinian men, who in the past belonged to Fatah – the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces.

The IDF continues to work with the PA Security Forces against terrorism. While the PASF has arrested several members of the Lions’ Den, it has been largely incapable of imposing any sort of law and order on the group and inside the Casbah.

That disappointment has led the defense establishment to take matters into its own hands and carry out operations, such as the one early Tuesday morning, to prevent Nablus from turning into another Jenin.

This is because, although the PASF could very likely crack down on the group, it has been unable to do so at the level the IDF wants and needs.

While the main actors of the group number less than 20, Israel is concerned that continued escalation by the group will encourage youths to not only imitate it but to carry out deadly attacks in its name.

That’s what makes the group so dangerous, causing it to be placed on the military’s list of top threats that must be dealt with.

As part of the intense pressure placed on the group, just two days ago, the IDF carried out a targeted killing of another one of its top leaders. Tamer el-Kilani was killed as he walked near a motorcycle that had been rigged with a large explosive device.

It was a message that the group is not safe in the Casbah.

But it’s not only the Lions’ Den phenomenon that is worrying the defense establishment.

The "TikTok Intifada"

The attacks by Uday Tamimi against the Shuafat checkpoint and in Ma’aleh Adumim, where he was killed, show that it’s not only Palestinians in the West Bank who can open fire and kill Israelis, but also those who hold Israeli ID cards and who are encouraged by TikTok.

If the wave of attacks in 2015 was called the “Knife Intifada,” this time it’s the “TikTok Intifada.”

Every Palestinian terrorist killed by Israeli security forces becomes a martyr and TikTok hero, even for a short period of time. And every TikTok hero, such as Lions’ Den founder Nabulsi, fans the flames for further attacks.

Twenty years after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi broke through the walls of the Casbah in Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002 to get to Palestinian terrorists dug in among booby-trapped buildings and streets, forces are still on the offensive against Palestinian terrorists.

This time they are doing it not by breaking through walls, but street by street, house by house, driven by the goal to root out all those who plan attacks against Israeli citizens.