Senior member of Palestinian terror group Lion’s Den killed in Nablus explosion

A senior member of a Palestinian terror group known as Lion’s Den was killed early Sunday in an explosion in the West Bank city of Nablus, with the group claiming Israel had “assassinated” him.

Tamer Kilani, a top member of the upstart organization — which has claimed near-night attacks on Israeli troops and civilians amid a crackdown on Nablus — was killed at about 1:30 a.m. when an explosive device attached to a motorcycle detonated in the old city of Nablus. , according to the group and Palestinian media reports.

In a statement, Lion’s Den claimed that Israeli forces planted the bomb, although some reports suggested it was an accident. The group threatened a “painful response” and asked the public to attend Kilani’s funeral later on Sunday.

Video footage showing the blast circulated on social media, as did a clip purporting to show an Israeli “collaborator” planting the bomb.

The Israel Defense Forces have not publicly commented on the explosion and the member’s death.

A defense official said Kilani, previously imprisoned in Israel, was directly involved in sending a Palestinian to try to carry out a “large-scale” attack in Tel Aviv last month, among several other shooting attacks in the Nablus area.

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Tensions in the Nablus area have escalated in recent weeks, with the Israeli military placing a cordon around the Palestinian city to crack down on the Lion’s Den.

Lion’s Den has claimed responsibility for most of the shooting attacks in the Nablus area since it was formed in August by members of various terrorist groups, including individuals formerly affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among others.

An Israeli soldier was killed in an attack by the group and a second person was slightly injured in a separate attack on civilian vehicles. The other attacks were ineffective, but videos of the shootings uploaded to social media helped him gain massive popularity on the Palestinian street in a short period of time.

The group, based in the Old City of Nablus, is made up of several dozen members, mostly young, secular men who shun any proper hierarchy, unlike other armed factions in the West Bank. Israeli officials have labeled the group a “terror squad.”

While most other unorganized popular resistances involve attacking troops operating inside Palestinian cities, Lion’s Den members do not wait for troops to come to them, but head outside the Old City of Nablus almost at night and attack Israeli targets in the area before managing to run back unscathed almost every time.

Members of the Lion’s Den are seen in Nablus in an image released by the armed faction on September 3, 2022. (Courtesy; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Act)

On Friday, Palestinians protesting the closing of a shuttered entrance in the town near Huwara clashed with troops, throwing stones and burning tires.

There have also been many incidents in the area involving settler violence against Palestinians, leftist activists and IDF soldiers.

Early Thursday, settlers who had been throwing stones at Palestinians near Huwara attacked soldiers who were trying to disperse them. Four troops were pepper-sprayed during the clashes, which drew widespread condemnation.

Two Israeli settlers, one of whom is also an IDF soldier, were arrested following the incident.

The area around Nablus is home to a number of harsh settlements, whose residents often intimidate Palestinians and vandalize their property. The settlers also accused the military of not doing enough to protect them.

A Palestinian protester returns a tear gas canister amid clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration demanding the opening of roads around the city of Nablus on October 21, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

An anti-terror offensive launched earlier this year focused on the northern West Bank saw more than 2,000 arrests in near-night raids. It also left more than 120 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — during attacks or during clashes with security forces.

In arrest raids in the West Bank early Sunday, the IDF said troops arrested nine wanted Palestinians.

The IDF’s counter-terrorism offensive in the West Bank was launched following a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people earlier this year. Another Israeli was killed in a suspected attack last month, and four soldiers were killed in the West Bank in attacks and during arrest operations.

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