More members of the Lions’ Den armed group in Nablus are expected to hand themselves over to the Palestinian Authority security forces in the coming days, a senior Palestinian official said on Saturday.
The official told The Jerusalem Post that negotiations were continuing between senior Palestinian officials and members of the group to persuade them to lay down their weapons in return for being recruited to the PA security forces.
“Our goal is to prevent more bloodshed,” the official told the Post. “We have good reason to believe that more gunmen will accept our offer to join the Palestinian security forces.”
Last week, four Lions’ Den gunmen surrendered to the Palestinian security forces in a move that is seen by many Palestinians as a first step toward dismantling the armed group, which has carried out a series of shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Nablus area over the past few weeks.
One of the gunmen who surrendered is Mahmoud al-Banna, a senior commander of the terrorist group. The move came after Israeli security forces raided the Old City of Nablus and killed five Palestinians, including another top commander of the group, Wadee al-Houh.
The surrender of the four gunmen is considered a blow to the Lions’ Den, which said in a statement that those who handed themselves over to the PA security forces did so on their own and not as a result of a decision by the group.
Lions' Den say they are here to stay
In another statement on Friday night, the Lions’ Den said that those who think the armed group has disbanded are laboring under an illusion. The group added that its members have been divided into three parts: those who have already been killed, those who have been injured and those who are still ready to continue fighting.
After the statement was issued, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Nablus to voice support for the group, chanting “With our blood, with our soul, we redeem you Lions’ Den.”
Some of the group’s gunmen who participated in the rally said they will “continue to fight until the last bullet and last man.”
In a related development, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have expressed opposition to the PA’s effort to persuade the gunmen in Nablus to lay down their weapons.
Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif Qanou said the presence of the Lions’ Den marks the beginning of a new phase of “resistance” against Israel. “The West Bank is witnessing an escalating revolution against the Zionist enemy,” Qanou said. “The occupation will not succeed in eliminating the Lions’ De.”
Senior Islamic Jihad official Khaled al-Batsh also warned about attempts to eliminate the armed group, calling on West Bank Palestinians to support the “resistance.” Batsh also called for the establishment of a “unified national leadership” to manage the work of the armed groups both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.