Thousands of Palestinians furious over the Israeli military’s latest deadly incursion into Nablus held midnight marches throughout The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in the pre-dawn hours Friday, calling for revenge and setting off low-level clashes with security forces in some places.
Protesters took to the streets in cities throughout the West Bank and Gaza in response to a call for demonstrations by the Lion’s Den terror group, an extraordinary show of solidarity with the armed outfit in the face of a concerted Israeli effort in recent months to dismantle it.
Members of Lion’s Den, an offshoot of Palestinian Islamic Jihad formed last year, had been targeted by Israeli forces during a Wednesday morning raid in Nablus.
The operation sparked an intense battle between armed fighters and Israeli forces, leaving 11 Palestinians dead, including three civilians, and over 100 injured.
Marches were held after midnight in Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, among other locations.
In East Jerusalem, demonstrations were reported near the Shuafat refugee camp and Qalandia crossing, as well as the neighborhood of a-Tur, where videos showed police clashing with protesters.
تغطية صحفية : "بعد منتصف الليل .. مواجهات في بلدة الطور بالقدس المحتلة" pic.twitter.com/J1XFbEvxWZ
— AlQastal القسطل (@AlQastalps) February 23, 2023
Large-scale marches were also held throughout Gaza.
In Nablus, hundreds of young men gathered in the street, vowed to protect the al-Aqsa Mosque, and many marches featured chants in support of the Lion’s Den group and its calls for revenge.
كل المدن والمخيمات بما فيها مخيمات الشتات تخرج عن بكرة ابيها نصرة للمقاومة، واستحابة لنداء #عرين_الأسود بالتكبير والتهليل ❤️✌️
— يحيى بشير | Yahya Basheer (@Yahya_M_Basheer) February 23, 2023
On Thursday, Lion’s Den urged Palestinians to take to the streets to show support for the group and “let the world know that the Lion’s Den and the resistance is ready for a swift reprisal,” the group said in a message on its Telegram channel.
Police raised their alert level Wednesday night over fears of revenge attacks, amid angry threats from Palestinian terror groups and widespread international condemnation.
Early Thursday, Gazans fired six rockets at Israel in an apparent response to the raid, the deadliest in the West Bank since 2005, when the United Nations began tracking such figures. Five of the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and the sixth landed in an open field.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Friday morning claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.
Wednesday’s raid came nearly a month after a similar day-time operation in the nearby city of Jenin in which 10 Palestinians were killed, including an elderly woman, in an intense firefight that broke out as the IDF sought to arrest a number of terror suspects.
For the past year, the IDF has been conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of Palestinian terror attacks that killed 32 people in 2022, and another 11 since the beginning of the year.
The IDF’s year-long operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests but has also sparked clashes, with 171 Palestinians killed in 2022, and another 60 have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or while battling security forces. Others were uninvolved civilians and some have been killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
Many of the number of the raids in recent months have targeted the Lion’s Den, a loose confederation of Nablus-based gunmen who have won widespread popularity on the Palestinian street with repeated brazen attacks on military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.