PA denies releasing Lions’ Den members as group resumes shooting attacks

The number of Lions’ Den gunmen currently stands at 40 to 50, the sources claimed, adding that some of the new members were from surrounding refugee camps and villages.

 A banner in Nablus displaying the faces of deceased members of Fatah terrorist group. (photo credit: KHALED ABU TOAMEH)
A banner in Nablus displaying the faces of deceased members of Fatah terrorist group.
(photo credit: KHALED ABU TOAMEH)

The Nablus-based Lions’ Den armed group has managed to recruit new members who are responsible for the resumption of the group’s attacks on the IDF, Palestinian sources confirmed on Wednesday.

The number of Lions’ Den gunmen currently stands at 40 to 50, the sources claimed, adding that some of the new members were from surrounding refugee camps and villages.

Earlier this month, the group, which is based in the Old City of Nablus, held a joint rally with gunmen belonging to the Balata Battalion from the nearby Balata Refugee Camp.

Members of the two groups said in recent interviews that they have decided to increase cooperation between them.

Sending a message

 Wall displays in Nablus show pictures of deceased members of the Lion's Den terrorist group.  (credit: KHALED ABU TOAMEH) Wall displays in Nablus show pictures of deceased members of the Lion's Den terrorist group. (credit: KHALED ABU TOAMEH)

The rally, attended by dozens of gunmen from the two groups, aimed to send a message to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority that, contrary to claims in some media outlets, the Lions’ Den has not ceased to exist.

The show of force was the first of its kind since Israeli security forces killed a number of Lions’ Den commanders, including Wadee al-Houh, several weeks ago.

Several members of the group have since turned themselves into the Palestinian security forces for fear of being arrested or killed by the IDF.

The Lions’ Den claimed responsibility for three shooting attacks against IDF soldiers and installations in the Nablus area over the past 48 hours. In the past, the group took credit for similar attacks.

A senior Palestinian Authority official, meanwhile, denied that some of the gunmen who surrendered to the Palestinian security forces have been released.

“They are still staying with us,” the official told The Jerusalem Post, referring to the gunmen. “They’re not allowed to leave the [security] installations.”

Among those held by the Palestinian security forces are Mahmoud al-Banna, Mohammed Tabanja, Mohammed Yaish, Emad Ja’ara and Bara’ Izhiman – all senior members of the Lions’ Den.

One of the founders and funders of the Lions’ Den, Mosab Shtayyeh, who was arrested by Palestinian intelligence officers in September, also remains in detention in a Palestinian security facility in Jericho.

Wave of violent protests

The arrest sparked a wave of violent protests in Nablus and one Palestinian was killed during armed clashes between Palestinian policemen and rioters.

But the sources told the Post that one Lion’s Den member who reportedly surrendered to the Palestinian security forces was seen last week in the Old City of Nablus.

They identified the man as Mahmoud Abu Kayed, a former intelligence officer who had reportedly joined the Lions’ Den.

Other sources claimed Abu Kayed was actually sent by the Palestinian security forces to “infiltrate” the armed group and bring about its downfall, and that’s why he was

Izhiman, one of the Lions’ Den gunmen, was arrested last week by Palestinian security officers while receiving treatment at the Specialized Arab Hospital in Nablus.

Izhiman, who is wanted by Israeli security authorities for his involvement in terrorism, was injured last week during an armed clash with IDF troops in Nablus.

He was still receiving medical treatment when officers from the Palestinian General Intelligence raided the hospital and took him into custody. He is currently being held in the Jnaid Prison in Nablus.

Two other Lions’ Den members, Tayseer al-Kharraz and Ikrimah Khamash, who were seriously injured during the IDF raid in which al-Houh was killed, also remain in a local hospital.

“The Israelis think that killing or arresting some members of the group would put an end to the Lions’ Den,” a veteran Palestinian activist in Nablus told the Post.

The activist, who said he was a former member of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed group of the ruling Fatah faction, said: “They (Israel) don’t know that the group has become so popular among our people that there will always be many young people ready to join. Look what happened with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. How many times have we been told in the past 22 years that the group was finished because Israel killed or arrested most of its leaders?  Today, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is very powerful and has a strong presence in the West Bank because the new generation has kept it alive.”