IDF raids Lions' Den HQ in Nablus, kills top leaders, destroys bomb lab

The Lions' Den terrorist group based in Nablus conducted a series of shooting attacks against Israelis in recent weeks.

Palestinians carry the body of the alleged Lion's Den leader from a hospital in Nablus after he was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers on October 25, 2022.  (photo credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinians carry the body of the alleged Lion's Den leader from a hospital in Nablus after he was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers on October 25, 2022.
(photo credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Five Palestinians were killed overnight in Nablus as Israeli security forces cracked down on the Lions’ Den militant group responsible for a number of recent attacks.

During the three-hour-long joint IDF, Israel Police and Shin Bet operation, troops destroyed an explosive lab belonging to the group in the Old City of Nablus. 

The IDF also fired a Matador missile at one of the apartments where armed gunmen were believed to be. A car was also reported to have exploded during the operation, with the Palestinian WAFA News Agency reporting that a missile was fired at the car, killing one person.

Though an armed Zik drone was in the air, it was not used during the operation.

The five Palestinians were killed after an intense firefight broke out between Israeli forces and armed gunmen. They were identified by the Palestinian Health Ministry as 27-year-old Mishaal Zahi Baghdadi, 35-year-old Hamdi Sharaf, 26-year-old Ali Antar, 30-year-old Hamdi Qayyim, and 31-year-old Wadi al-Houh. 

According to reports, al-Houh was considered a founding member of the Nablus-based group. His home was used as a hub where connections were made between bomb-makers and locals who would carry out attacks. 

The military said in a statement that “during operations, dozens of Palestinians burned tires and threw stones at troops.” 

During the raid, the group published a statement calling on locals to come out and defend the city and the group from Israeli troops. Videos shared on social media showed intense riots with massive gunfire and large explosions.

Another 22 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes; no Israeli injuries or casualties.

A sixth Palestinian identified as 20-year-old Qusai Tamimi, was shot in the chest by troops in Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah, after clashes broke out in protest of the raid on Nablus. According to the military, he was shot and killed after throwing an explosive device toward troops.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the Samaria military base along with the Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Avi Bluth and Samaria Brigade Commander, Colonel Shimon Siso and held a situational assessment.

The visit came following a situational assessment held in the morning along with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, the Head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar and other officials.

“In the face of warnings of severe shooting attacks, the IDF, Border Police, and Shin Bet forces are operating 24 hours a day, wherever necessary,” Gantz said.  “We will not accept the reality of terrorism on any front. Anyone who tries to harm Israeli citizens will end up in prison or in the grave.”

Gantz said that he had approved the raid several days earlier, and thanking the security forces, he warned that “there will be no sanctuary cities for terrorists, and we will be wherever it takes to fulfill our mission.'

Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with the officers who took part in the raid and was presented with the details of the operation.

Earlier in the morning, Lapid told Kan public radio on Tuesday that the gunmen killed in Nablus had been involved in the terror attack that killed St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch in early October.

“Israel will never be deterred from acting for its security,” he said. “The moment they hurt us, IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians, they should know it will end badly.”

 A view shows the remains of a vehicle damaged during an Israeli raid following clashes with Palestinian gunmen, in Nablus on October 25, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA) A view shows the remains of a vehicle damaged during an Israeli raid following clashes with Palestinian gunmen, in Nablus on October 25, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

Speaking to Army Radio, Lapid said that Israel will continue to act as needed. “Whoever plans terror attacks against the State of Israel, his fate will be bitter,” he said.

Taking to Twitter shortly after the raid, Gantz warned that there “aren’t and won’t be any sanctuary cities for terrorists.”

“We will continue to act against anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel, wherever and whenever necessary,” he said in a post on Twitter following the operation.

Palestinian demonstrators clash with IDF and Israeli security forces during a protest in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near the West Bank city of Nablus, October 7, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)Palestinian demonstrators clash with IDF and Israeli security forces during a protest in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near the West Bank city of Nablus, October 7, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev praised the forces for “its determined and professional work in complicated circumstances last night in Nablus that destroyed Palestinian terrorists' infrastructure and targeted terrorists responsible for attacks who were planning more attacks.

"The State of Israel will continue to attack and surprise the terrorists - those that carry out the attacks and those who send them - in any place at any time,” he said.

The operation, based on precision intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet and the IDF’s 8200 Intelligence unit, came less than 48 hours after a senior member of the Lions' Den group, Tamer al-Kilani, was killed in an explosion in the Old City of Nablus

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi hailed the “excellent” intelligence that led to the operation and the death of Houl.

“Excellent intelligence and professional forces penetrated the heart of the Casbah and killed those that try, and in one case even succeeded to harm the citizens of the State of Israel and its soldiers,” he said at a ceremony honoring fallen Kfir Brigade soldiers.

“We said and proved that there is no place for terrorists to hide,” Gantz said. We will reach every city, neighborhood, house and basement. In the end, every terrorist will be arrested or killed.”

The operation took place less than 48 hours after a senior member of the Lions’ Den group, Tamer al-Kilani, was killed in an explosion in the Casbah of Nablus.

The Palestinians blamed Israel for what they called an “assassination,” claiming that a collaborator placed an explosive device on a motorcycle that detonated as he walked by.

The IDF placed Nablus under lockdown two weeks ago after Baruch was killed in a drive-by shooting attack claimed by the Lions’ Den. Though the military has continued its Operation Break the Wave, forces have been placing pressure on the West Bank commercial center in an attempt to thwart additional attacks by the terrorist group.

According to the IDF statement, the group was also behind a foiled attack in Jaffa where a Palestinian was caught by police with a Carlo Gustav submachine gun and improvised explosives in his bag. 

The military said that the group was also responsible for placing a bomb at a gas station in the settlement of Kedumim, attempting to carry out an explosives attack on the settlement of Har Bracha as well as throwing a fragmentation grenade at troops in Nablus.

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday morning that Israel will “regret” its continued crimes against the Palestinians.

According to a statement released by the terror group, Haniyeh stressed that the “blood of the martyrs in Nablus and these sacrifices will only fuel the resistance.”

Other clashes in the West Bank

Israeli security forces also conducted other operations throughout the West Bank as part of Operation Break the Wave, confiscating military equipment and illegal assault rifles. Troops also arrested several wanted Palestinians throughout the West Bank.

Overnight, shots were also fired at soldiers from the IDF's Golani Brigade at the Salem checkpoint in northern Samaria in the West Bank. Troops responded by firing back, hitting one of the gunmen. 

Later in the night, the troops identified one of the suspects who fled and located him in the village of Romana near Jenin and surrounded the house where he locked himself inside. He was later arrested by the force.