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Into the Lions' Den: Understanding the Newest Militant Threat in Palestine

On February 22, 2023, joint forces of the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Border Guard raided Nablus in response to a wave of recent, deadly terror attacks perpetrated in Israel. Their primary targets were members of the Lions' Den.

Photo: Lions' Den Social Media

Based in the West Bank town of Nablus, the Lions' Den is a new group that was founded in 2022 by a young man named Mohammad al-Azizi, more commonly known as "Abu Saleh".

For context, the population of the West Bank is relatively young. The overall median age is 21.9 years and the median age for males is 21.7 years. The two most notable towns related to militant activity in the West Bank are Nablus and Jenin. While the West Bank was relatively small in 2017, its population was recorded at 3.2 million. Trends show that the local population is growing.

The population of Nablus, the origin of the Lions' Den, is approximately 157,000 today, in an area of 11 sq/miles. Given the demographics of the West Bank, and Nablus, it has been reported that the group is quite small, with only approximately 100 members.

The group appears to be growing in popularity following the recent Israeli raid on its strongholds. In an article dated October 28, 2022, stated that the group may only have approximately 25 active gunmen in Nablus, but this number is likely to change.

According to, before the group was created, many of its members were local criminals engaged in crimes such as burglary and extortion.

The Lions’ Den is made up of a mix of members from various groups including Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigade (PLO), Islamic Jihad, and Hamas in the West Bank. Members, and supporters, are often angry and frustrated teens and young men in their twenties.

Members and supporters, of the Lions’ Den are often difficult to spot, when not in uniform. They do not appear to have a structured hierarchy. As a local group, they appear to find logistical support from within their community.


What's in a Name?

The Lions’ Den refers to the West Bank and a “lion” is a young man living in the region. This name gives the members an identity connected to their “neighborhood” and lets other groups know where they are from. The consensus is that the name is related to a group named Nablus’ Night Knights, which was disbanded in 2006.



Lions' Den Emblem | Wikimedia Commons

The Lions’ Den logo appears linked to the symbols used to represent the Fatah and Islamic Jihad armed wings. However, the current symbol, which displays the Dome of the Rock (considered the holiest place to Jews, as well as, a pivotal and holy place to Muslims) sitting underneath two crossed rifles, alongside an icon of an armed fighter with his arm raised, standing in the middle of a map of Palestine/Israel. This logo does not belong to any of the established political factions we have seen previously.

According to the Institute for National Security Studies the color red, specifically, the red lapel ribbons are used to indicate that, unlike the local Palestinian security structure, their weapons will not be directed toward their own people. This is significant and likely attracts supporters who feel betrayed by the local administration.


Notable Members

One notable member of the group includes Wadi al-Houh, who was killed in the recent raid. Al-Houh was responsible for making pipe bombs and acquiring weapons for the group.

Another member, Ibrahim ilNablusi (also deceased), was a criminal responsible for several shootings in the area and was quite popular on social media. His death has been connected to the group’s rising popularity. Since his death, he is seen as a type of folk hero with many young Palestinians wearing necklaces with his picture.



The Lions’ Den is outspoken against the Palestinian Authority, who they deem as weak, as well as being vehemently anti-Israel. They see themselves as defenders of the residents of Nablus, something they feel that the old guard of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) is not doing. They are considered to be an aggressive and violent terror group by Israel, but a local resistance group by Palestinians.

Lions' Den Announce Action in Nablus District. Their logo and red ribbons are visible.

The Lions’ Den has claimed responsibility for the following recent attacks:

  • August 15, 2022 – The first mention of the Lions’ Den as a group was made by Palestinian media. The group claimed responsibility for an attack on IDF soldiers in Rujeib, West Bank.

  • September 9, 2022 – Israeli police said that they had foiled a plan by the group to carry out a large-scale attack in southern Tel Aviv. They arrested a suspect trying to enter the city carrying two pipe bombs and a submachine gun.

  • September 22, 2022 – Bullets are fired at the Israeli settlement of Har Bracha and a nearby military post. The IDF said they found 60 shell casings nearby.

  • October 2, 2022 – A taxi and bus were shot at by militants near the Jewish town of Elon Moreh in the West bank injuring the taxi driver. A demonstration by local Israelis to protest the incident was attacked with gunfire, wounding a soldier.

  • October 11, 2022 – Israeli settlers held a demonstration in Jerusalem to protest the recent attacks. A 21-year-old Israeli soldier who had been assigned to defend the group was shot and killed.



While they are still a small group, with no official affiliations, their growing popularity has caused the P.A. to try to bring them in under their banner.

As recently as November 2022, the Jerusalem Post reported that a senior Palestinian Authority official claimed the following: “I can tell you for sure that the Lions’ Den is almost finished.” He went on to say that “Their senior commanders agreed to lay down their weapons and are now staying with our security forces.” Today this does not appear to be the case.

The P.A.’s authority appears to be weakening and, perhaps as a result, they refuse to fight this new group. Additionally, since the group claims no official affiliation with Hamas, the P.A. must outwardly view them as a local “activist” group, therefore it will be more reluctant to challenge them openly.

The group has developed connections with Hamas, which has provided some funding, weapons, uniforms, and training. The group's unofficial affiliation with Hamas, a terror organization based in Gaza, highlights Hamas’s growing influence outside of Gaza and threat to the Palestinian Authority. This could indicate a growing wave of new violence.


Social Impact

The group's presence on social media outlets has been successful in spreading and glamorizing the group's message to tech-savvy Palestinian youth. They post videos of their attacks and are seen as much as an 'influencer’, as they are a militant terror group.

The group is turning into a “brand”, with many young Palestinians viewing them as heroes. As recently as Feb 24, 2023, the father of slain Lions’ Den member, Wadi al -Houh, claimed on video that “the Lions’ Den has revived the existence of the Palestinian people ”.


Social Media Activity

This picture is the “Official Lions ’ Den Telegram Channel”, as it reads in Arabic . This can be seen at the bottom in black . It shows the pictures of Mohammad al -Azizi and Aboud Suboh holding up their rifles in the background.

The group has a presence on many social media platforms including Telegram, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Some of the Instagram accounts where it is possible to find support for the group include, "Wol.Palestine", "Electronic Intifada", "Middle East Observer", and "Pal Cyber News".

Members have broadcast their attacks live on social media, much to the excitement of many Palestinians and their supporters. Although removed from TikTok in 2022 for violating platform guidelines, many supporters continue to share their message. Keyword searches such as, "Lions' Den", "Palestine", and "Free Palestine", will produce results.


Analytical Assessment

The Oslo Accords of 1993 was considered a turning point in Israeli-Palestinian relations. The hope was that they would push the peace process forward and create Palestinian self-rule under the interim Palestinian Legislative Council throughout most of the West Bank and Gaza. This was to result in, over the next five years, Palestinian self-rule.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to accept Israel's right to exist and Israel, while maintaining its security, would no longer assume governing responsibilities. It was, in essence, an agreement of “land and economics in exchange for security.”

Eventually, this agreement broke down and both sides felt betrayed. Tensions remain high between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank. The conflict between the two sides is as complex as it is old.

New groups such as the Lions’ Den are enjoying a surge in popularity amongst Palestinian youth who already have, not only, a deep-seated hatred towards Jewish Israelis but a frustration with the Palestinian Authority. The impact of technology and social media only helps spread their message, often in real-time, both within the West Bank, Israel, and around the world.

Based on current trends and reporting, the deadly conflict between the opposing sides will most certainly continue for some time and is likely to escalate in the near future.

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