'Lion's Den group will cease to exist' - Palestinian Authority official

The group has claimed responsibility for a spate of shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Nablus area over the past few weeks.

 PALESTINIANS ATTEND the funeral of five terrorists belonging to the Lions’ Den group who were killed by Israeli forces in Nablus on October 25 (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
PALESTINIANS ATTEND the funeral of five terrorists belonging to the Lions’ Den group who were killed by Israeli forces in Nablus on October 25
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The Lions’ Den armed group in Nablus will soon cease to exist, a senior Palestinian Authority official said on Thursday.

The official, who was speaking to The Jerusalem Post shortly after the IDF lifted the 23-day closure imposed on Nablus and its surrounding towns and villages, revealed that another member of the group handed himself over to the PA security forces on Tuesday night.

The group has claimed responsibility for a spate of shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Nablus area over the past few weeks.

The official did not reveal the identity of the gunman, but said he was now staying in one of the PA security installations in Nablus. He confirmed that some of the gunmen would be recruited to the Palestinian security services.

The Lions’ Den, which started operating in the Old City of Nablus a few months ago, consists of gunmen from various Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

 Students protest on behalf of Lions' Den members at the entrance to Tel Aviv University on October 27, 2022.  (credit: IM TIRTZU) Students protest on behalf of Lions' Den members at the entrance to Tel Aviv University on October 27, 2022. (credit: IM TIRTZU)

“I can tell you for sure that the Lions’ Den is almost finished,” the official said. “Their senior commanders agreed to lay down their weapons and are now staying with our security forces.”

“Their senior commanders agreed to lay their weapons and are now staying with our security forces.”

Palestinian Authority official

According to the official, negotiations are underway to persuade three or four more gunmen to turn themselves in to the Palestinian security forces. “These men are still refusing to accept our offer, but I believe that very soon they will change their minds,” he added.

In the past 10 days, several Lions’ Den gunmen have handed their weapons over to PA security officers and were taken to security installations in the city.

Among the gunmen were two commanders of the group, Mahmoud al-Banna and Mohammed Tabanja. The move came after Israeli security forces killed Wadee al-Houh, another commander of the group, during a recent raid on the Old City of Nablus.

The official refused to say whether the lifting of the closure was linked to the PA’s efforts to contain the armed group. “We want life to return to normal,” he said. “The people have suffered a lot as a result of the closure and Israeli military operations.”

Still dozens of gunmen likely to operate after group is dissolved

Sources in Nablus said that even if the Lions’ Den is finally dissolved, there are still dozens of gunmen who are likely to continue operating under different names.

Earlier Thursday, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited Nablus together with a number of Palestinian cabinet ministers and foreign diplomats. Shtayyeh initiated the tour to brief the diplomats on the situation in the city in light of the IDF closure, which was lifted hours before the visit.

Shtayyeh did not publicly comment on the Lions’ Den. He was quoted as saying Israel would not be able to “undermine the resolve of the Palestinians no matter how much it tries.”

Shtayyeh said the visit “carries several messages, the first of which is that this occupation must end, and that it is not acceptable to continue collective punishment. And the most important message is one of support for the people of Nablus.”

The Palestinian premier added: “Our people’s message is a message of peace, love and tranquility. Our children want to see a better future.”

The Palestinian premier added: “Our people’s message is a message of peace, love and tranquility. Our children want to see a better future.”