US Announces Sanctions Against West Bank Lions’ Den

The Spokesman of the US State Department, Matthew Miller, has announced sanctions from the State Department against the West Bank Palestinian militant group, the Lions’ Den.

Sanctions and Who Are the Lions’ Den

It is unclear the exact effect that the State Department is trying to reach with sanctions on the group. The Lions’ Den has its basis in Palestinian youths in Nablus, specifically the Old City, in the West Bank. Their funding is thought to come from secret transfers from both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, though this is not 100% certain given the many unknowns of the group.

But who are the Lions’ Den..?

According to interviews with members of the group, they were formed in February of 2022, though the Israeli military has stated that they only became aware of their existence in July of 2022. Named after Ibrahim al-Nablusi, a Palestinian militant nicknamed ‘the Lion of Nablus’ who had been killed in an Israeli raid, the group quickly rose to prominence.

Initially, the Lions’ Den became significantly popular from posting footage of operations against the IDF on their telegram (and tik tok, though their tik tok has since been banned), which shot up in followers to over 200,000 within a year. Presently, as of publication, their telegram has 222,096 followers.

Besides their footage, the Lions’ Den was also popular due to frustrations amongst the population of the West Bank both with continued Israeli occupation, as well as the inaction of the Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous governing force of Palestinian areas of the West Bank, in protecting them against perceived Israeli aggression.

Following the Lions’ Den formation, violent incidents against the IDF rose immensely. In 2022, the year the group was founded, there were 61 shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in and around Nablus, a drastic increase from 2020, when there were only three.

The members of the Lions’ Den are primarily disaffected members of other Palestinian groups, such as Fatah, who wish to take more direct action against the Israeli occupation, though a number of Lions’ Den members are thought to maintain membership in some of these other groups.

A Lions Den digital media release showing three of their fighters who were killed in clashes with Israeli forces in July of 2023.

Their popularity came with influence. On a number of different occasions, the Lions’ Den has called for strikes and protests, including marches. Some of these calls were on short notice, calling for a protest the same day, or the day following, and yet they were answered. Some of these protests have been broken up by the Palestinian Authority, who opposes the Lions’ Den.

Over time, however, the strategy of the Lions’ Den has changed. Instead of releasing footage of their attacks and claiming responsibility after each operation, the Lions’ Den says nothing.

In total, the Lions’ Den has released 10 statements since Hamas’ attack against Israel on October 7th. This silence, they said, is in order to try and give Israel an information black out, and make gathering intelligence against the group more difficult. An excerpt from a statement from the Lions’ Den released in July which outlines this strategy may be read below:

“In a time of excessive words, statements, and illusory channels, it is our right to remain silent altogether, with the conversation limited to the battlefield and the rifles speaking there. We will confront them there, in the only language that the enemy understands: the language of blood and warfare. We have chosen this silence, this terrifying silence, as it is more worthy, stronger, and more effective than thousands of words.

The saying is that of the guns, the saying is that of the guns, the saying is that of the guns – no statements, as much as possible, and no armed shows at all.”

The Lions’ Den is particularly unique amongst Palestinian groups, in several different ways.

The first of which is of course the strategy outlined above. Most militant groups in the West Bank not only claim their operations, and post photos and videos on occasion, but will actively detail their operations against IDF forces as clashes are going on (mostly during Israeli raids into West Bank cities and towns). This remains true for groups in Gaza, where groups will detail where attacks against the IDF took place, what was targeted, and sometimes even the weapon they used.

The second of which is the group’s political affiliation. Or rather, their lack thereof. Within the same statement that outlined their strategy of silence, the group declared itself to have no political affiliation, only seeking the liberation of Palestine, stating it is their “right and duty to unite behind the resistance, unify our word, and set aside narrow political and factional disputes,” further adding that “the cause is greater than anything else.”

This lack of political affiliation sets the group apart from a number of other Palestinian groups. Many of these other groups espouse political ideologies, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist group, or groups like Fatah (the dominant party in the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas.

Further within this frame, the Lions’ Den called for unity across Palestinian factions in disregard to political ideology.

Thirdly, is that the Lions’ Den is fairly well equipped. Many of the West Bank militant groups participate in clashes with little equipment. In contrast, photos of the Lions’ Den show a wide array of equipment, including western weapon systems.

A photo of a rally held by the Lions’ Den on September 2nd, 2022.

While the Lions’ Den is largely restricted to the Old City in Nablus, they have deployed militants to other cities, such as Jenin, amidst some of the larger Israeli raids that have occurred in the West Bank.

Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th, the group has participated in operations against the IDF in the West Bank as a part of the larger conflict.

A number of their militants, including some leadership, have been killed or arrested by Israeli forces since their founding. It is not exactly certain, but their membership is believed to be approximately 100 people.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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