Israel assassinates ‘the lion of the Balata Brigade’

A photo of Mahdi Hashash with early members of the Lions' Den, now all assasinated (Telegram)

Mariam Barghouti 

Mondoweiss  /  November 9, 2022

Mahdi Hashash, a member of the armed Balata Brigade, was killed in an Israeli assassination attempt in Balata refugee camp as part of the ongoing Israeli campaign to root out armed resistance groups in the West Bank.

On Wednesday afternoon, November 9, 17-year-old Mahdi Mohammad Hashash was killed near Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus.

His head covered with a traditional black-and-white kuffiyeh, his body wrapped in a Palestinian flag with a rifle laying on top of him, Hashash — whose nomme de guerre was Shimon — was laid to rest by his family and resistance fighters who had come to attend his burial.

During the funeral procession, fighters from the Lions’ Den — the armed resistance group based in the Old City of Nablus — held their rifles as they marched, carrying the body of their slain comrade, “the lion of the Balata Brigade.”

The Balata Brigade, Katibet Balata in Arabic, is one of the armed resistance groups that have taken shape in Nablus and Jenin throughout the past year. “Shimon” the resistance fighter was killed during armed confrontations with invading Israeli forces in Balata refugee camp, three kilometers southeast of Nablus. According to residents, Hashash had fought back against the Israeli soldiers surrounding the camp.

Injured during the early hours of confrontation, Hashash was taken to the hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.

“The Balata Brigade is currently doing battle in the streets and alleys of the camp with the Zionist Israeli forces,” the group reported at approximately 3:30 a.m. Moments later, it reported that its confrontations with the army “are at point zero.”

The Israeli army reported that the young fighter was killed after he had opened fire on Israelis visiting Joseph’s Tomb that evening, including a Knesset member. Similar reports were made when Israeli forces were concentrating their assaults on the Lions’ Den.

However, contradicting reports also indicate that the Israeli army had been conducting a military operation targeting the refugee camp.

The gathering of comrades

For days, the Israeli army has been escalating its attacks on the areas surrounding Balata refugee camp. 

This comes a few short weeks after the Israeli army launched an intensified campaign of assassinations to liquidate key members of the Lions’ Den. Yet despite the uninterrupted killing spree, Palestinian resistance fighters continue to show up for one another. 

The raid of Wednesday morning was allegedly to target the wanted Palestinian fighter, Mohammad Abu Draa — going by the nomme de guerre, Al-Zankloni. 

In a show of community and solidarity across armed groups, fighters of the Lions’ Den also joined in armed confrontations on Wednesday morning, acting as back-up for their comrades in the camp.

On social media, the Lions’ Den and the Balata Brigade published photos of the slain Hashash as he stood flanked on either side by early members of the Lions’ Den, Adham Mabroukah and Muhammad Dakhil, who were assassinated on February 8 along with Ashraf Mubaslat in one of the first targeted assassinations to take place in Nablus this year.

One after the other, comrades and close friends of Hashash held the pale body of their slain comrade, taking turns to kiss his forehead farewell.

Al-Zankloni was able to survive the assassination attempt due to the protection provided by the armed groups of Nablus. Hours after the battle, at approximately 5:00 a.m, videos of Al-Zankloni show him still wearing an armored vest and rifle on his back. 

“We tell the filthy dogs,” the Balata Brigade warned in a statement published on its Telegram account at 6:28 a.m. “We will conjure hell on you and your soldiers.”

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss