Lions' Den resurfaces, say Israel only understands 'blood and bullets'

Between 50-70 gunmen from the Lions' Den militia took part in the rally in the Old City of Nablus over the weekend.

 Palestinian gunmen from the Balata Brigade of the Fatah movement's Lions' Den groups carry their weapons during a festival in the Askar refugee camp in the West Bank, December 9, 2022.  (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Palestinian gunmen from the Balata Brigade of the Fatah movement's Lions' Den groups carry their weapons during a festival in the Askar refugee camp in the West Bank, December 9, 2022.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The Lions’ Den armed group held a large rally in the Old City of Nablus on Friday, signaling the return of the militia after several of its leaders and members were killed and arrested by the Israeli security forces in October.

The rally, attended by dozens of masked gunmen, was the first of its kind in many weeks. Residents of the Old City of Nablus said 50-70 gunmen took part in the rally.

The group called on its men to remain ready for fighting Israel. “The enemy understands only the language of blood and bullets,” it said in a statement.

The reappearance of the Lions’ Den came despite attempts by the IDF and the Palestinian Authority to eliminate the group.

 Palestinian gunmen from the Balata Brigade of the Fatah movement's Lions' Den groups carry their weapons during a festival in the Askar refugee camp in the West Bank, December 9, 2022.  (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) Palestinian gunmen from the Balata Brigade of the Fatah movement's Lions' Den groups carry their weapons during a festival in the Askar refugee camp in the West Bank, December 9, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Israeli security forces have killed and arrested several leaders of the group over the past few months.

Several members of the group have reportedly turned themselves into the Palestinian Authority security forces to avoid being killed or arrested by the IDF.

Friday’s rally was also attended by members of another militia - the Balata Batallion. 

The group, based in the Balata Refugee Camp near Nablus, is headed by Mohammed Abu Dira’, nicknamed al-Zankalouni.

Abu Dira’ was recently injured during armed clashes with IDF soldiers near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. He was hospitalized for two weeks in a local hospital before returning to the refugee camp a few days ago.

Abu Dira’ told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that a group of gunmen managed to smuggle him out of the hospital, where he was being guarded by officers from the PA’s Preventive Security Service. The PA was apparently planning to take him into custody upon his release from hospital.

Not gone, just biding their time

He told the Post that he organized the rally to send a message that the Lions’ Den and other armed groups in the Nablus have not disappeared.

“The rally aimed to send a message to all those who claim that the Lions’ Den and the resistance in Nablus are finished,” Abu Dira’ said. “The Lions’ Den and the Balata Batallion are fully coordinated. I was responsible for organizing the rally on Friday; we wanted to surprise everyone and show that the resistance groups are still there and are even increasing their power.”

A spokesperson for the Lions’ Den said that those who think the group has ended are living under an illusion.

The rally, he said, was held in memory of Wadee al-Houh and Tamer al-Kilani, two of the militia's top commanders.

Houh was killed during an armed clash with Israeli security forces, while Kilani died when a booby-trapped motorcycle exploded as he passed near it in the Old City of Nablus.

After the rally, the Lions’ Den claimed responsibility for two shooting attacks at IDF soldiers near Nablus.

The large number of masked gunmen who attended the rally surprised some Palestinians.

“This is a severe blow to both Israel and the Oslo [Palestinian] Authority,” remarked one Palestinian. “After they announced the dismantling of the Lions’ Den two months ago, it turned out that the group has actually doubled its strength.”

Another Palestinian pointed out that the Lions’ Den appears to have succeeded in recruiting new members to its ranks despite the Israeli security crackdown and pressure by the PA to hand over their weapons and surrender to the Palestinian security forces.