A senior member of a loosely organized Palestinian terror group known as Lion’s Den was killed early Sunday in an explosion in the West Bank city of Nablus, with the group claiming Israel “assassinated” him.
Tamer Kilani, a top member of the upstart organization — which has claimed near-nightly attacks on Israeli troops and civilians amid a crackdown on Nablus — was killed at approximately 1:30 a.m. when an explosive device attached to a motorcycle detonated in Nablus’s Old City, according to the group and to Palestinian media reports.
In a statement, Lion’s Den claimed that Israeli forces planted the bomb, although some reports suggested it might have been an accident. The group threatened a “painful response,” and called on the public to attend Kilani’s funeral later Sunday.
Video footage allegedly showing the blast was circulating on social media, as was a clip purported to show an Israeli “collaborator” planting the bomb.
The Israel Defense Forces did not publically comment on the explosion and the member’s death.
A defense official said Kilani, previously jailed in Israel, was directly involved in sending a Palestinian man to attempt to commit a “large-scale” attack in Tel Aviv last month, among several more shooting attacks in the Nablus area.
The militant group Lions den accused #Israel of assassinating one of its fighters by sticking an explosive device on a motorcycle parked off a road by what they claimed an “Israeli collaborator” near the old city of Nablus, video showed the explosion pic.twitter.com/J54gAgke73
— Rushdi Abualouf (@Rushdibbc) October 23, 2022
Tensions in the Nablus area have ratcheted up in recent weeks, with Israel’s military placing a cordon around the Palestinian city to crack down on Lion’s Den.
— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) October 23, 2022
Lion’s Den has claimed responsibility for the majority of shooting attacks in the Nablus area since it was formed in August by members of various terror groups, including people previously affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among others.
One Israeli soldier was killed in an attack by the group and a second person was lightly injured in a separate assault on civilian vehicles. The other attacks have been ineffectual, but videos of the shootings uploaded to social media have helped it win it massive popularity on the Palestinian street in a short period of time.
الشهيد تامر الكيلاني أحد قادة عرين الأسود والذي اغتاله الاحتلال فجر اليوم باستخدام دراجة مفخخة انفجرت لدى مروره بالقرب منها، في البلدة القديمة بنابلس. pic.twitter.com/TFM5o1o3Ul
— yaseenizeddeen (@yaseenizeddeen) October 23, 2022
The group, based in Nablus’s Old City, is believed to consist of several dozen members, mostly young, secular men, who eschew any proper hierarchy, unlike other armed factions in the West Bank. Israeli officials have labeled the group as a “terror squad.”
While most other unorganized popular resistance involves attacking troops conducting operations inside Palestinian cities, Lion’s Den members do not wait for troops to come to them, instead heading outside of the Nablus Old City on an almost nightly basis and attacking Israeli targets in the area, before managing to flee back unscathed, almost every time.
On Friday, Palestinians protesting the closure at a shuttered entrance to the city near Huwara clashed with troops, hurling stones and burning tires.
There have also been many incidents in the area involving settler violence toward Palestinians, left-wing activists, and IDF soldiers.
Early Thursday, settlers who had been throwing stones at Palestinians near Huwara attacked soldiers who tried to disperse them. Four troops were pepper-sprayed during the clashes, which drew widespread condemnation.
Two Israeli settlers, one of whom is also an IDF soldier, were arrested over the incident.
The area around Nablus is home to a number of hardline settlements, whose residents often intimidate Palestinians and vandalize their property. Settlers have also accused the military of not doing enough to protect them.
An anti-terror offensive launched earlier this year and focused on the northern West Bank has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids. It has also left over 120 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
In arrests raids across the West Bank early Sunday, the IDF said troops arrested nine wanted Palestinians.
The IDF’s anti-terror offensive in the West Bank was launched following 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 the arrest operations.