RAMALLAH: Several fighters from Nablus-based armed group the Lions’ Den (Arin Al-Usood) surrendered to Palestinian security services on Wednesday night.
Palestinian sources said that the militants requested to communicate with the Nablus governor and the command of the Palestinian security services, demanding protection at security headquarters in Nablus.
They requested an amnesty agreement similar to that which former Fatah military wing Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades received in 2007.
The five senior leaders who surrendered are Mahmoud Al-Banna, considered by Israeli security services as the mastermind of the group, Mohammed Yaish, Mujahid Okouba, Imad Jaara and Al-Hafi, in addition to the two young men, Taysir Al-Kharraz and Al-Khammash, who were injured a month ago by an accidental explosion.
However, the Lions’ Den rejected the surrender as a rogue incident, saying on its Telegram channel that it had not asked a security authority to receive any of its fighters, and that “whoever surrenders, this is his decision and his choice, we do not even discuss it, and we ask the citizens to stop circulating rumors and not insult any fighter who surrendered. We tell you again: We do not want to see on your faces any moment of sadness, as we get our strength from you.
“Those who surrendered often received threats of assassination or arrest from Israeli intelligence agencies. For over two years, they did not pay attention to these threats and remained under the pursuit of the Israeli occupation forces,” the group said.
Palestinian security sources said the militants will be protected by security services.
Al-Banna was injured along with Wadih Al-Houh during a violent raid by the Israeli army on Oct. 25 in the Yasmina neighborhood in the old city of Nablus, during which five people were killed, including two from the group.
Al-Banna said on his Facebook page: “Today, after consulting my brothers in the struggle, I and my comrades-in-arms have agreed to surrender to our brothers in the Palestinian security services who will protect us from this brutal occupier, who has violated all the laws of the world and tried hard to commit genocide against us in the last operation, during which my companion and brother Wadih Al-Houh was martyred.
“I want to ask those sitting in homes with their family members who are on social media and have weapons, where were you, and what did you do when we were surrounded and screaming? Where was your gun? We did not ask you to pray only and publicize our pictures and write ‘may God protect you’ ... what have you done for us? You were waiting for the morning to hang your gun on your shoulder and go out to shoot in the air at our funeral, and today from behind the screens you say ‘it is not the right time.’ Did you try to sleep on the edge of a staircase or in a dark alley? Have you tried shooting in the air while we are surrounded to confuse the occupation forces?”
Israeli media sources have downplayed the importance of the surrender, saying that the Lions’ Den promotes an ideology popular among the Palestinian youth. The organization’s decentralized nature and vague hierarchy mean that the surrender will fail to damage the group, sources added.
The sources said that injuries sustained during clashes with Israeli security forces among those who surrendered was a major motivating factor behind the move. Some of the Lions’ Den figures require medical treatment that they cannot receive in light of their continuous pursuit by Israeli forces.
Tayseer Nasrallah, a prominent Fatah leader in Nablus, told Arab News that he was surprised by the surrender, noting that massive pressure was exerted on the militants by their families.
“Their families wanted to play a role in persuading them to turn themselves in,” Nasrallah said, noting that the Oct. 25 operation by the Israeli forces confirmed to the members that their lives were in “real danger.”
He added: “Israel is determined to uproot the phenomenon of the Lions’ Den at any cost, whether by killing or arrest, and to keep no other option for them except to surrender to Palestinian forces.”
Nasrallah expressed fear that Israeli forces will not hesitate to storm the prison where the Lions’ Den figures are held to detain and arrest them, as happened in the Jericho prison in 2006 when Israeli forces stormed the building and captured Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine, as well as his colleagues.
Amer Hamdan, an activist in Nablus, told Arab News that the Lions’ Den members live in harsh conditions, with some unable to meet family members outside of “martyrs’ funerals.”
Nasrallah and Hamdan agreed that the surrender would weaken the Lions’ Den.
Israeli forces arrested 30 Palestinians in the West Bank on Thursday.