This story originally appeared in Mondoweiss on Oct. 25, 2022. It is shared here with permission.
Six Palestinians were killed overnight in the occupied West Bank, including five people from the city of Nablus during a massive Israeli military operation in the city that lasted into the early hours of the morning on Tuesday.
Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, reports began coming out of Nablus that large amounts of Israeli troops were raiding the city and heading downtown towards the Old City of Nablus. Dozens of military jeeps were seen driving down Nablus roads into the city, while Israeli drones could be heard in the skies overhead.
Palestinian media reported that snipers were positioned on rooftops surrounding the Old City, while the army deployed other troops to the mountaintops surrounding Nablus.
The army raid sparked fierce confrontation from armed resistance groups in the Old City, who were the primary targets of the raid. Ma’an News Agency, along with several other Arabic media outlets, also reported that Palestinian Authority security forces engaged in armed confrontation with undercover Israeli forces during the Israeli assault.
Ma’an added that the Palestinian security forces came under fire from Israeli snipers who were positioned on the rooftops of houses, resulting in the injury of four of the PA officers.
Videos from Nablus after midnight showed heavy armed clashes in streets of the Old City, with gunfire ringing across Nablus. The raid lasted several hours, during which time Israeli forces surrounded several homes, from which members of the “Lions’ Den” group were reportedly fighting.
People across Nablus also took to the streets in and around the Old City to confront Israeli soldiers with rocks, burning tires and other objects to close off roads in an attempt to block the passage of the army through the city.
Reports indicated that during the army assault a vehicle in the Old City was targeted by a “missile,” killing one of the people inside, according to Wafa news Agency.
Over the course of the night, dozens of Palestinians were injured, including at least 20 injuries caused by live ammunition. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that its medical crews were prevented from entering neighborhoods in the Old City to treat the wounded.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed early Tuesday morning that five Palestinians from Nablus were killed overnight. They were identified as Hamdi Sbeih Ramzi Qaim, 30, Ali Khaled Amr Antar, 26, Hamdi Mohammad Sabri Sharaf, 35, Wadee Sbeih Houh, 31, and Mashaal Zahi Ahmad Baghdadi, 27.
A sixth Palestinian was killed in the village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He was identified by Wafa as 20-year-old Qusai Tamimi.
Nablus under fire
The Israeli military assault on Nablus was one of the largest scale offensives on the city in recent years.
The Israeli army released a statement in the early hours of Tuesday morning saying its forces “raided a hideout apartment in the Kasbah of Nablus used as a headquarters and explosives manufacturing site by the main operatives” of the Lions’ Den, which the army called a “terrorist group.”
The army said that it detonated the alleged “explosive manufacturing site,” and that during its operation, “multiple armed suspects were hit.” “Dozens of Palestinians also burned tires and hurled rocks at the troops. The troops responded with live fire toward the armed suspects shooting at them,” the statement said.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were quoted in Israeli media saying that they managed to “successfully” kill one of the leaders of the Lions’ Den group, vowing that they would continue their campaign until the group would be “finished.”
Of the five Palestinians who were killed in Nablus, at least one, Wadee Sbeih Houh, 31, was reported to be a high-ranking member and leader of the Lion’s Den.
“With great sadness and sorrow…the Lion’s Den mourns that heroic leader Wadee al Houh, who rose up during an armed clash with the Zionist enemy inside the al-Yasmina neighborhood in the Old City,” the Lion’s Den said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The group also mourned the five other “honorable martyrs,” though it did not officially claim any of the other Palestinians killed in Nablus as members of its group.
The assault on Nablus comes on the heels of a two-week military siege on the entire district, home to 425,000 Palestinians. During the blockade Israeli forces shut down all entry and exits to the city, erecting dozens of flying checkpoints, putting life in Nablus to a standstill and subjecting residents to a policy of collective punishment.
Enacted in an effort to stamp out the Lions’ Den, who operate out of the Old City in Nablus and have been growing both in popularity and in operations, the blockade did little to stop the group from carrying out more shooting operations targeting Israeli military positions across the district.
On Sunday, less than 48 hours before the raid on Nablus, another member of the Lion’s Den was killed in what the group described as a targeted “assassination.” Tamer al-Kilani was killed when he was walking by a motorbike in the Old City that was allegedly rigged with explosives and planted there earlier in the day.
While the Israeli army did not officially confirm its responsibility for the killing of al-Kilani, his assassination was an indication that the army was ramping up its campaign against the group. The group vowed a strong response after al-Kilani’s killing, but did not publicly take responsibility for any more operations in the period of time between his killing and the raid on Tuesday.
At 1:23 a.m. early Tuesday morning, in the midst of ongoing clashes and heavy gunfire in the Old City, with reports of casualties rolling in, the Lions’ Den released an official statement on their Telegram channel, which has amassed more than 210,000 followers.
Praising their fellow Palestinian people, the group vowed to continue fighting, and never to surrender in “humiliation.” “We are waiting for victory,” the group said. “It’s time for the lions to come out of their den.”
A general strike was announced across the West Bank on Tuesday morning. Schools were closed early, and businesses and government offices shut their doors in mourning over the six overnight martyrs.
Political factions in Nablus put out calls for the public to take part in the funerals of the five Palestinians who were killed in the city. The funeral processions, set to take place on Tuesday afternoon, are expected to draw crowds in the thousands.
Protests and clashes were reported in towns and cities across the West Bank, including in Bethlehem and Hebron. More demonstrations are expected to take place near Israeli military checkpoints across the West Bank on Tuesday.
Since the start of the year, an estimated 130 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank alone, the deadliest year in the occupied territory since 2015.