IDF says Lion’s Den bomb factory destroyed, setting off heavy fighting in Nablus

Israeli soldiers destroyed an explosives factory in Nablus, the army said early Tuesday, in a wide-ranging raid in the West Bank city that sparked intense clashes, leaving five people dead, including the leader of a terrorist group, and more than 20 wounded. according to the Palestinians. health officials.

Explosions and gunfire erupted for more than an hour in Nablus after a large convoy of Israel Defense Forces vehicles entered the West Bank city before 1 a.m. Tuesday. Nablus has been at the center of weeks of operations targeting the Lions terrorist group, responsible for a series of attacks on military positions, settlements and other targets.

“A joint force of IDF soldiers, agents of the Shin Bet security service and anti-terrorist forces raided a hideout in the Old City of Nablus that was being used as a bomb workshop by central members of Lion’s Den,” the IDF said. in a statement released after the raid.

The IDF said troops had used shoulder-fired rockets against the building. “The bomb workshop was blown up by our forces,” the military said.

The army said soldiers opened fire on a number of gunmen, citing Palestinian reports of casualties. He said the soldiers also returned fire when they were fired upon during the unrest in the city.

“During the operation, dozens of Palestinians burned tires and threw stones at the bodies,” the army said.

Men carry the body of Hamdi Sharaf after clashes with Israeli forces in Nablus, West Bank on October 25, 2022. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The IDF said no soldiers were injured in the overnight operation.

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health reported that five Palestinians were killed in Nablus and more than 20 were wounded, some of them seriously.

It also reported that a sixth person was killed in clashes with troops in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. The IDF said the man was shot by soldiers after he threw an explosive device at them.

The ministry named the victims in Nablus as Hamdi Ramzy, 30, Ali Antar, 26, Hamdi Sharaf, 35, Wadee al-Houh, 31, and Mishaal Baghdadi, 27.

Al-Houh was a senior member and founder of Lion’s Den, according to Israeli officials and Palestinian media reports.

The IDF said al-Houh, who apparently led the group and was allegedly responsible for numerous attacks, was a “main target of the operation”.

Al-Houh was also responsible for producing explosive devices and buying weapons for members of the group, the IDF charged.

Palestinian media also identified the other slain as members. The group did not immediately comment on the operation against him.

“Terrorist Wadee al-Houh was killed in the exchange of fire,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid told Kan public radio on Tuesday morning.

“Israel will never be deterred from acting for its own security. Part of this team are people who hurt Ido Baruch, and the moment they hurt us, IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians, they should know it will end badly,” he added, referring to a soldier killed in an attack. with gunfire near Nablus last month.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a Tuesday morning tweet: “There are not and will not be safe havens for terrorists.”

“We will continue to act against anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel, wherever and whenever necessary,” he added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was making “urgent contacts to stop this aggression against our people”, his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said as fighting appeared to flare up in Nablus.

In a later statement, Abu Rudeinah said the deaths were “a war crime and the Israeli government bears full responsibility for its consequences.”

Palestinian media reported that calls were being made for a general strike in Nablus on Tuesday.

Palestinian children look at a damaged car after an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, October 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Separately, the military said Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the Salem crossing in the northern West Bank early Tuesday. The checkpoint and adjacent base has been the target of multiple attacks in recent weeks, prompting Gantz to order its closure.

The IDF said troops returned fire on the gunmen and later arrested one of them at their home in the town of Rummanah.

Two other wanted Palestinians were arrested in overnight raids in other areas of the West Bank.

Protesters burn tires on the streets of Nablus during clashes with Israeli forces in Nablus, West Bank early October 25, 2022. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

After the Nablus operation early Tuesday, Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a statement that its “fighters were involved in violent clashes” with Israeli forces in Nablus and threatened Israel with retaliation “against these crimes” there.

Palestinian reports claimed that members of the PA security force were caught off guard by the raid and also opened fire on Israeli troops, who returned fire, resulting in injuries.

The raid was the latest in the city to target Loon’s Den, a recently formed group made up of members of other terrorist organizations that has claimed a spate of attacks in the weeks since Israel killed a senior member of the al- Aqsa, Ibrahim al-Nabulsi at the end of August.

An Israeli soldier – Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch, 21, – was killed in an attack by the group and a second person was slightly wounded in a separate attack on civilian vehicles. Other attacks have been ineffective, but videos of the shooting uploaded to social media have helped him gain massive popularity on the Palestinian street in a short period of time.

On Saturday night, a Lion fighter, Tamer al-Kilani, was killed in the Old City of Nablus in an “explosion” attributed by the Israeli press and group to a remotely activated bomb by the Israeli military. The military has not commented publicly on the allegations.

Palestinians gather around a motorcycle said to have been used to kill Tamer al-Kilani, in the old city of Nablus, on October 23, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

A defense official said Kilani, formerly 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 attacks in Nablus area.

Tuesday’s statement blamed Loun’s Den for the failed attack in Tel Aviv, which was thwarted when the would-be attacker was searched by police in Jaffa, who found weapons and improvised explosives in his bag.

He also said the group was responsible for planting a bomb at a gas station in Kedumim settlement, attempting to carry out an explosive attack in Har Bracha settlement and throwing a cluster munition grenade at troops stationed in Nablus.

Israeli security forces conduct a search operation after a gun attack in the West Bank village of Salem, near Nablus, on October 2, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Tensions in the Nablus area have risen in recent weeks, with the Israeli military setting up a cordon around the Palestinian city to hit the lions’ den.

The pressure has been exacerbated by increasingly frequent attacks by settlers in the area angry at the army’s inability to contain the groups, which have frustrated Palestinians in Huwara and other towns near the settlements.

An anti-terrorist offensive launched earlier this year and centered on the northern West Bank has seen more than 2,000 arrests in almost nightly raids. It has also left over 120 Palestinians dead, many – but not all – while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

The IDF’s anti-terrorist offensive in the West Bank began after 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 have been killed in the West Bank in attacks and during arrest operations.

AFP contributed to this report.

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