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Troops open fire at group of armed Palestinians near Nablus, killing one — IDF

Nablus-based armed faction ‘Lion’s Den’ says member killed in clash; West Bank, Gaza crossings for Palestinians to close over Rosh Hashana

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Palestinian men walk past the charred remains of a motorcycle in Nablus in the West Bank on September 25, 2022, following clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. (AFP)
Palestinian men walk past the charred remains of a motorcycle in Nablus in the West Bank on September 25, 2022, following clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. (AFP)

A Palestinian gunman was killed in a clash with Israeli forces near Nablus early Sunday morning, the military said, as troops were put on high alert ahead of the upcoming Jewish holidays.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops identified a group of armed Palestinians driving near Nablus on a motorcycle and by car.

“IDF troops opened fire at the armed men. Hits were identified,” the IDF said.

The group was thought to have been heading to commit a shooting attack in the area.

An armed Palestinian faction calling itself “Lion’s Den” announced that a member, Saeed Kuni, was killed in the clash. His body was reportedly being held by the IDF.

Several other members were hurt in the clash, according to Palestinian media reports. Images posted to social media showed a burnt motorcycle and a car damaged by gunfire.

The group — based in Nablus’ old city — was established in recent months by members of various terror groups. Some of its members were apparently previously affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Lion’s Den is tied to Ibrahim Nabulsi, a wanted Palestinian gunman who was killed in an Israeli raid in Nablus last month.

It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in the northern West Bank in recent weeks.

An Israeli officer is seen during an arrest operation in the West Bank, September 22, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian gunmen in recent months have targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads.

Later Sunday, the military announced the arrest of four suspects in the West Bank — including two in Nablus — as part of a months-long counter-terror crackdown. An IDF statement said gunfire was heard in the area during the operation.

Another suspect was detained in the Nablus-area village of Jalud, while the fourth was arrested in Hebron.

Meanwhile, the IDF was on high alert across the West Bank amid the uptick in attacks, and ahead of the upcoming Jewish holidays.

During Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first and last days of Sukkot, Israel will close crossings to the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Palestinians.

Such closures are standard practice during festivals and holidays. The military says they are a preventative measure against attacks in periods of increased tension.

Meanwhile, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said Thursday there was an identifiable rise in the number of alerts on plans to carry out terror attacks and that the force was countering the threat “with large deployments” of officers.

He said that from Saturday night until October 18, police would be at their highest level of readiness.

Police walk through the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City on September 18, 2022. (Israel Police)

In recent months Israeli troops have also repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids in Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

The military launched the arrest operations after a series of deadly attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May.

Many of the IDF’s arrests in recent months have concentrated on Nablus and Jenin, in the northern West Bank, where a number of the terrorists who committed the attacks earlier this year hailed from.

Israeli security officials have warned in recent months that the Palestinian Authority is losing control of the northern West Bank.

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