Five ‘New’ Terror Groups Threatening West Bank Intifada
by Akiva Van Koningsveld
Violence in Israel and the West Bank has once again spiked, as Palestinian terror groups attempt to propel the region into a third intifada.
Terrorism against the Jewish state continues to evolve, with genocidal groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas making common cause to attract young Palestinians. The emergence of new terror militias that are centered around territory rather than political affiliation, like the Lions’ Den and the Jenin Battalion, increasingly poses a threat to Israeli security forces.
Here are five new anti-Israel terror groups:
1. Lions’ Den (Nablus)
Founded: August 2022
Links to: Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Perhaps the most infamous “new” terror organization plaguing Israel and the West Bank, the Nablus-based Lions’ Den (“Areen al-Usood”) publicly announced its existence in August 2022, following the death of co-founder Mohammed al-Azizi a month earlier. Azizi reportedly also served as an operative in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.
Its members, estimated at around 10-50 gunmen as of March 2023, include Palestinians affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Within months of its founding, the Lions’ Den gained notoriety as it launched a wave of attacks against both Israeli soldiers and civilians, including a shooting in October 2022 in which IDF Staff Sergeant Ido Baruch was murdered.
According to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran-backed Hamas initially provided the Lions’ Den with weapons and ammunition worth $1 million. In a voice note released in August 2022, founding member Ibrahim al-Nabulsi thanked Hamas for its support.
The Lions’ Den became popular among Palestinian youth due to its prominent presence on social media, including TikTok and Telegram. In February 2023, thousands of Palestinians joined a march in support of the Lions’ Den, with polls indicating that over 70% of the public backs the group.
While the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) claims it asked the Lions’ Den to lay down its weapons in return for immunity from prosecution, the PA has taken little concrete action. In some cases, senior PA officials have even praised the terrorist organization, necessitating Israeli raids on Nablus.
- The terror murder of IDF Staff-Sgt. Ido Baruch in an October 11, 2022 attack near Shavei Shomron in the West Bank.
- On September 9, 2022, Israeli security forces thwarted a large-scale attack in Tel Aviv, arresting a Lions’ Den operative carrying a rifle, explosives, and the terror group’s flag.
- In two separate West Bank shootings on October 2, 2022, the Lions’ Den injured an Israeli taxi driver and an IDF soldier.
- The organization has taken credit for indiscriminate gunfire directed at the Jewish community of Har Bracha, located south of Nablus.
- The Lions’ Den is also believed to have been responsible for placing a bomb at the Kedumim gas station in the fall of last year.
Into the Lions’ Den: Why Israel Carried Out a Counterterrorism Raid in Nablus. pic.twitter.com/phB0iIBQI9
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) October 25, 2022
2. Jenin Battalion (Jenin)
Founded: May 2021
Links to: Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Hamas
The Jenin Battalion was founded after the Hamas-initiated Gaza war in May 2021. While the organization was initially set up as an Islamic Jihad chapter in Jenin’s refugee camp, terrorists from other groups, mainly the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Hamas, soon joined.
The Battalion comprises around 150 terrorists (December 2022) organized into different cells. No command hierarchy exists, and every cell and gunman can operate independently. Islamic Jihad reportedly pays teenagers in Jenin $300 for every Israeli soldier they shoot and $100 if attacks do not result in injuries to the troops.
The Jenin Battalion allegedly receives millions of shekels in funding from legacy terror groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, allowing it to purchase weapons, ammunition, and surveillance cameras used to monitor IDF activity.
In November 2022, the Jenin Battalion made headlines by kidnapping Tiran Fero, an Israeli-Druze teenager who was critically injured in a car crash near Jenin. According to Fero’s family, terrorists murdered him by disconnecting life support equipment and subsequently snatched his body. The remains were eventually returned to the Jewish state.
Jerusalem has also charged the Jenin Batallion with killing Noam Raz, a veteran of the elite Yamam police unit, during a May 15, 2022, counter-terrorism operation.
In various statements, the Battalion has stressed the connection between Jenin and the Gaza Strip, warning that if Israel “crosses the line” in the West Bank, there would be a terrorist response from the Palestinian coastal enclave.
- After Israeli-Druze teenager Tiran Fero was critically injured in a car accident near Jenin on November 22, 2022, Jenin Battalion terrorists stormed Fero’s hospital room, disconnected him from life support, and seized his body, making demands of Israel in exchange for it.
- During a May 15, 2022, arrest raid, the Jenin Battalion allegedly shot and killed Noam Raz, an officer in the Yamam counter-terror unit.
- On March 7, 2023, Jenin Battalion operatives targeted Israeli forces seeking to arrest a wanted Hamas terrorist with gunfire and explosives, leaving three Israeli counter-terror officers in fair-to-serious condition.
- On multiple occasions, the group has claimed to have opened fire at the West Bank community of Shaked and Meirav, a kibbutz in northern Israel.
Check your facts, @Reuters. The Jenin Battalion announced its demands within hours after kidnapping Israeli Druze teenager Tiran Fero, and called for the release of Palestinian terrorists’ bodies. pic.twitter.com/MiASuf9A1o
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 29, 2022
3. Balata Brigade (Balata)
Founded: October 2021
Links to: Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades
Following Islamic Jihad’s success in instigating deadly violence in Jenin, the Balata Brigade was founded by members of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus.
Analysts have noted that the group currently shows “some signs” of organization, naming Musab Awais and Mahdi Hashash as recognized operatives of the Balata Brigade. In a December 17, 2022, interview with The Jerusalem Post, a member said the group counts “dozens” of gunmen, including many children.
On November 8, 2022, the organization issued a missive saying it would “confront” a coordinated visit by Israeli worshippers to Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site under Palestinian control. Hours later, the Balata Brigade launched an all-out assault on the complex with gunfire and explosive devices, leaving a 15-year-old terrorist dead after an IED exploded in his hand.
- In November 2022, terrorists ambushed Jewish worshippers visiting Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, leaving one Balata Brigade operative dead after an IED exploded prematurely.
- Balata Brigade leader Musab Awais shot at an Israeli counter-terror unit on February 22, 2023, before being neutralized.
Another Palestinian militant organization to keep tabs on is Katibat Balata. A recent military rally held in the Balata camp (northern West Bank) shows some signs of organization. Though it’s early to say what kind of impact it will have on Israeli operations in the near future. pic.twitter.com/byWAwBXpKU
— Joe Truzman (@JoeTruzman) November 7, 2022
4. Jaba’ Battalion (Jaba’)
Founded: September 2022
Links to: Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades
Jaba’, a Palestinian village located some eight kilometers (five miles) southwest of Jenin, is set to become the latest battleground between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli security forces.
According to unconfirmed sources, the Jaba’ Battalion is made up of approximately 40-50 terrorists from Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, with the former terror group financing the purchase of assault weapons.
Although little is known about the Jaba’ Battalion, Israeli intelligence suggests that the group is responsible for a December 2022 shooting attack that targeted an Israeli civilian bus.
- On December 18, 2022, suspected Jaba’ Battalion gunmen fired at least seven bullets at a bus carrying a group of civilians, including Israeli parliamentarian Limor Son Har-Melech.
- The Jaba’ Battalion reportedly took responsibility for a drive-by shooting at an army checkpoint near Homesh.
- During an IDF arrest raid in Jaba’ on March 9, 2023, the organization claimed to have shot down an Israeli surveillance drone over the village.
A military parade by the Jaba Brigade – Al-Quds Brigades towards the congratulatory house for the martyrs of the town of Jaba, south of #Jenin. pic.twitter.com/dh552zznT8
— Middle East Observer (@ME_Observer_2) March 11, 2023
5. Tulkarm Battalion-Rapid Response (Tulkarem)
Founded: February 2023
Links to: Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Islamic Jihad
The latest terror formation to emerge in the West Bank, the Tulkarm Battalion-Rapid Response, was named after slain Fatah terrorist Raed al-Karmi. According to residents of Tulkarm, located near the security barrier with Israel, Karmi went by the nom de guerre “Rapid Responder” due to his quick and deadly “retaliations” against Israeli forces.
The Fatah commander was involved in the murder of at least 10 Israelis during the Second Intifada (2000-2005), almost all innocent civilians.
Unnamed sources inside the newly-formed Battalion told Arab media that the formation of the new organization in February 2023 completed the restoration of the “Triangle of Terror”, Jenin-Nablus-Tulkarm, which existed during the British Mandate and the early 2000s.
The group, which reportedly consists of a handful of gunmen from Fatah and Islamic Jihad, has carried out several attacks in the first weeks of its existence, including on the civilian community of Bat Hefer, a town bordering Israel and the West Bank.
Unlike Jenin and Nablus, Tulkarm has been relatively quiet in recent months, and Palestinian Authority security forces have also taken swift action against the Rapid Response group in accordance with Ramallah’s legal obligations under the Oslo Accords. In response, the organization has issued thinly-veiled threats to the PA police.
- In March 2023, the Tulkarm Battalion-Rapid Response “confronted” IDF forces operating in Tulkarm, hitting an Israeli military vehicle using gunfire and explosives.
- The organization attacked West Bank security checkpoints on at least five occasions in the first two months of 2023.
- The Tulkarm Battalion has furthermore targeted Israeli civilian communities, including Avnei Hefetz and Bat Hefer.
Tulkarem Battalion announce its formation in public.
They claimed shooting towards Israeli forces near Nitsanei Oz checkpoint two days ago. Israeli forces failed to arrest anyone in this video, despite wide searches in Nour Shames RC and Tulkarem city since Saturday. pic.twitter.com/5MyxZyGRvW
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) February 22, 2023
The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.