Taking the fight straight into the heart of the Lions’ Den – analysis

Taking the fight straight into the heart of the Lions’ Den – analysis


Israeli security forces have gone on the offensive against the Lions’ Den, carrying out operations deep in the Casbah of Nablus where the group’s gunmen feel most secure.

A burned vehicle is seen outside the house of Palestinian group Lions’ Den member Wadee Al-Houh, which was targeted during a raid by Israeli security forces, in Nablus in the West Bank, October 25, 2022.

Israeli security forces have gone on the offensive against the Lions’ Den, carrying out operations deep in the Casbah of Nablus where the group’s gunmen feel most secure.

The group, which was formed in response to the IDF’s Operation Break the Wave meant to crack down on Palestinian terror, has been a thorn in the military’s back in recent weeks.

Though a small group, it’s been able to carry out numerous shooting and bomb attacks against Israeli troops and civilians, including the deadly drive-by shooting that killed St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch.

The operation on Tuesday morning targeted one of the main actors in the group, 31-year-old Wadi al-Houh. He is said to have been one of the founders of the group, along with Ibrahim al-Nabulsi who was killed by Israeli security forces several weeks ago. 

Al-Houh, not only fired toward troops on numerous occasions but was the middle-man between bomb-makers and weapons smugglers and Palestinians who he sent out on attacks.

A Palestinian militant takes part in the funeral of two Palestinian gunmen who were killed by IDF in a gun battle during a raid, in Nablus in the West Bank July 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

He was killed along with four other members of the Lions’ Den. And despite the massive gunfire directed at troops, no Israeli security forces were killed or injured.

Israel’s fight against terrorism

Fighting terror is nothing new for Israeli security forces. From state-sponsored terror to terror groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the IDF, Border Police and the Shin Bet have been handling this fight for decades. 

But the fight against the Lions’ Den is different. The group is not Hamas, it is not organized like the Gaza-based terror group. It is a number of heavily-armed young Palestinian men, who in their past belonged to Fatah- the party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Security Forces.

The IDF continues to work with the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) against terror,  and while PASF has arrested several members of the Lions’ Den, they have been largely incapable to impose any sort of law and order on the group and inside the Casbah.

That disappointment has led Israel’s defense establishment to take matters into their own hands, and carry out operations such as the one overnight to prevent Nablus from turning into another Jenin.

Because though the PASF could very likely crackdown on the group, its been so far unable to do so at the level the IDF wants and needs it to.

While the main actors of the group number less than 20, Israel is concerned that continued escalation with the group will encourage youths to not only imitate the group but carry out deadly attacks in their name.

And that’s what makes the group so dangerous and has placed it on the military’s list of top threats that must be dealt with.

As part of the intense pressure placed on the group, just two days ago, the IDF carried out a targeted killing of another top leader of the group. Tamer el-Kilani was killed as he walked by a motorcycle that had been rigged with a large explosive device.

It was a message that the group is not safe in the Casbah. 

But it’s not only the Lions’ Den phenomenon that is worrying the defense establishment.

The “TikTok Intifada”

The attack by Uday Tamimi against the Shuafat checkpoint and in Maale Adumim where he was killed, shows that it’s not only Palestinians in the West Bank but also those who hold Israeli ID cards and who are encouraged by TikTok that can open fire and kill Israelis.

If the wave of attacks in 2015 was called the “Knife Intifada”, this time it’s the “TikTok Intifada.”

Every Palestinian militant killed by Israeli security forces becomes a martyr and TikTok hero, even for a short period of time. And every TikTok hero, like Lions’ Den founder Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, fans the flames for further attacks.

Twenty years after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi broke through the walls of the Casbah in Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002 to get to Palestinian terrorists dug in among booby-trapped buildings and streets, forces are still on the offensive against Palestinian terror.

This time, not by breaking through walls, but street by street, house by house, driven by the goal to route out all those who plan attacks against Israeli citizens.

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