Israel must deal with the 'cowardly' Lions' Den - editorial

Terrorists are a threat to the Palestinians themselves as well as to Israelis. Militias such as the Lions’ Den must be dealt with before they incite more attacks and cause ever greater bloodshed.

 Members of the Palestinian armed factions hold a press  conference over the tension in East Jerusalem, in in Gaza City, on October 14, 2022 (photo credit: ATTIA MUHAMMED/FLASH90)
Members of the Palestinian armed factions hold a press conference over the tension in East Jerusalem, in in Gaza City, on October 14, 2022
(photo credit: ATTIA MUHAMMED/FLASH90)

Palestinians on Sunday accused Israel of killing a senior member of the Lions’ Den terrorist group in Nablus with an explosive device placed on a motorcycle in the early hours of the morning. Initially, they reported that Tamer al-Kilani had been killed while preparing an explosive device, but later the terrorists organization said the explosion was caused by a bomb placed on his motorcycle by a “collaborator.”

Targeted killings of terrorists by Israeli forces in the West Bank are relatively rare, unlike the situation in Gaza. Israel, at the time of writing, had not officially claimed responsibility for what would be seen as a successful targeted assassination of a terrorist leader, but clearly, no tears were shed for Kilani on the Israeli side.

Who are the Lions' Den?

Although the group is still relatively small, gunmen from the Lions’ Den have been behind a series of attacks on Israelis, some of them lethal, including the drive-by shooting in which St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch was killed near the community of Shavei Shomron earlier this month. His killer has yet to be apprehended.

Kilani was reportedly personally involved in several attacks, including numerous shootings around Nablus and sent a terrorist armed with a submachine gun and pipe bombs to carry out a large-scale attack in Tel Aviv, which fortunately, was thwarted by alert police officers. In addition, he was responsible for throwing a grenade at an IDF unit near the Havat Gilad outpost, and for dispatching a Nablus resident to place an explosive device at a gas station in Kedumim in late September, among other incidents.

 Police arrest a man at the scene of stabbing attack near near Modi'in, on September 22, 2022 (credit: FLASH90) Police arrest a man at the scene of stabbing attack near near Modi'in, on September 22, 2022 (credit: FLASH90)

It is good to see that the government and security forces are taking the threat from this group seriously and are responding. It is better to tackle a fledgling  group than to wait for it to grow into a well-organized and well-funded entity.

The 33-year-old Kilani was reportedly a senior member of the organization and a former security prisoner who spent eight years in an Israeli prison for belonging to the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Following his death, the group said Kilani had been “one of the leaders of the Lions’ Den” and he had always been “at the forefront of those clashing with the occupation.”

As The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh noted, Kilani knew that Israel had him in its sights following the recent attacks and was taking precautionary measures meant to prevent his capture, but his targeted elimination on Sunday came as a surprise. The Lions’ Den is trying to track down the suspected “collaborators” who allegedly assisted the Israeli security forces, and some Palestinians renewed their call for the Palestinian Authority to halt security coordination with Israel.

Others, Abu Toameh pointed out, went as far as accusing the PA of working in collusion with Israel to eliminate the armed groups operating in the northern West Bank.

He noted that the death of Kilani is a serious blow to the Lions’ Den, whose members will now be forced to devote more time and energy to avoid being tracked down and killed by the IDF than to launching attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Nablus area. The terrorists, in addition, will be forced to invest more time and effort in uncovering “collaborators.” 

The targeted killing sends a message of deterrence and shows that terrorist leaders need to know they cannot hide or act with impunity.

Assuming Israel was behind the targeted assassination of Kilani, it should be commended and encouraged to keep up the pressure. Care must be taken to keep tackling terror completely beyond politics, especially as the country heads to the polls again.

Terrorists are a threat to the Palestinians themselves as well as to Israelis. Their aim is to spread fear and violence, not peace and stability. Militias such as the Lions’ Den must be dealt with before they incite more attacks and cause ever greater bloodshed. Its members gave themselves a name they hoped would project an image of strength and courage. It is only right to show their weakness – and that nothing is more cowardly than the sort of attacks they carry out.