Mass funerals after Israeli raids on West Bank militants kill six

AFP , Tuesday 25 Oct 2022

Six Palestinians were killed in sweeping Israeli raids Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, in what the occupation army described as an assault targeting the emerging "Lion's Den" armed group.

Mourners carry the bodies of Palestinians who were among five killed in an overnight Israeli raid, during their funeral in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. AP


Six Palestinians were killed in sweeping Israeli raids Tuesday in the occupied West Bank as the army targeted an emerging armed group, and thousands later massed for the funerals of the alleged gunmen. 


The Palestinian health ministry said five people were killed in Nablus in the northern West Bank, where Israel confirmed an overnight operation targeted the "Lion's Den", a new group it blames for multiple recent attacks. 


Another Palestinian died from a gunshot wound to the chest during overnight clashes with Israeli forces in Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah, the health ministry said. 


Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that Wadi al-Houh, whom he described as "the head of the Lion's Den", was among those killed in Nablus. 


The army said it had carried out a major operation with police and intelligence officers targeting a site "used by the main operatives of the 'Lion's Den'", describing it as a "headquarters and a workshop for making weapons".


"The forces detonated the explosive manufacturing site," added the army statement which did not provide a death toll. 


"During the activity, multiple armed suspects were hit."


Ready for 'escalation'


An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that "after trying to let the Palestinian Authority contain the group and them failing to do so, and with the rise in attacks... we embarked on an intelligence-based operation to halt the Lions' Den terror attacks".


"The region has been thoroughly reinforced, we're prepared for an escalation," the official added.


At the death reported at Nabi Saleh, the army confirmed it had "spotted a suspect throwing an explosive device" at soldiers, who opened fire.


In a statement posted to Telegram, the nascent militant group was defiant. "Surrender is the path of humiliation," it said. "It's time for the lions to come out of their den."


A sea of mourners carried bodies through the streets of Nablus ahead of the burials as gunman fired into the air. 


Violence has surged in recent months in the north of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel, especially in the areas of Nablus and Jenin.


More than 100 Palestinian fighters and civilians have been killed since the start of the year, the heaviest toll in the West Bank for nearly seven years, according to the United Nations.


Lapid, speaking on Israeli public broadcaster Kan radio, warned Palestinian militants that "they need to know that we will reach them wherever they are".


"Israel will never stop acting for its security and we will do what needs to be done," added Lapid, who is campaigning ahead of November 1 elections. 


Gaza general strike


Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is making "urgent contacts in order to stop this aggression against our people" in Nablus, his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said in a statement.


The chief of Islamist armed group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, warned in a statement that the violence would "plunge Palestine into escalation".


Palestinian factions in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza strip announced a general strike.


Khaled al-Batsh, a leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, urged "confrontation" with Israel on all "fronts".


Islamic Jihad reported its fighters were involved in "violent clashes" with Israeli forces in Nablus, and threatened Israel with reprisals "for its crimes".


In recent weeks, a group of young Palestinian fighters -- some affiliated with groups such as Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- have launched militant attacks from Nablus.


The new group, called "Areen al-Ossoud" or "The Lions' Den" in English, claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on an Israeli soldier two weeks ago in the West Bank. 


Late leader Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, nicknamed "The Lion of Nablus", was known for galvanising the youth before he was shot dead by Israeli forces in August. He has since become a folk hero to Palestinians on social media.


In the aftermath, the Israeli army tightened its grip on Nablus, setting up controls to identify people leaving the city and constantly scanning the area with observation drones. 


On Saturday night, a Lions' Den fighter, Tamer al-Kilani, was killed in Nablus by an "explosion" attributed by the group and the Israeli press to a bomb remotely activated by the Israeli army. 


The army did not comment on these claims.

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