Israel kills three Lions’ Den fighters days after Dizengoff shooting

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  March 14, 2023

In the last year, Israeli forces and armed Jewish settlers have killed more than 310 Palestinians, while Palestinian attacks have killed more than 30 Israelis.

On Thursday evening, March 9, a Palestinian gunman opened fire in the heart of Tel Aviv, injuring at least three Israelis

The gunman, identified by Israeli authorities as Mutaz Khawaja, 23, was killed on the scene. According to Israeli reports, the Palestinian political group, Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Three days later, another three Palestinian resistance fighters were killed by Israeli soldiers in Nablus on Sunday, March 12, in a failed ambush attempt.

Lions’ Den fighters killed

On Sunday morning, three Palestinian men were killed near Nablus. The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the men as Jihad Mohammad Wasfi Shami, 24, Oday Othman Rafiq Shami, 22, and Mohammad Raed Naji Dbeik, 18. 

The Palestinian fighters reportedly attempted to ambush a group of Israeli soldiers in an armed confrontation near the Yizhar-Jit checkpoint located on Route 60. No injuries of Israeli soldiers were reported.

According to Israeli military reports as well as statements from the resistance group, the three men were killed by the Israeli Golani Brigade. According to the Israeli military, a fourth man, Ibrahim al-Awartani, was arrested and taken for interrogation after seizing some weapons, including an M-16, live ammunition, and a handgun.

On Sunday evening, the families and community of the men rallied in the streets of Nablus, demanding the return of the slain men’s bodies for the right to burial. 

The bodies of the three men remain withheld by Israeli authorities along with another 130 Palestinian corpses, which remain in Israeli custody as a punitive practice and as a possible bargaining chip with Palestinian resistance factions in future swap deals. The practice of withholding bodies as bargaining chips is considered illegal under international law. 

According to a statement released by the armed resistance group, the Lions’ Den (Areen al-Usud), the three slain men were members of the group.

In images shared on social media platforms, Jihad and Oday Shami (who are second cousins), are seen holding their guns over the grave of Mohammad Al-Azizi, the co-founder of Lions’ Den. Al-Azizi was assassinated in July of last year in a targeted execution.

Tel Aviv shooting

The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said he was“shocked by [Thursday’s] brazen terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that targeted innocent people. Praying for those who were injured.”

The perpetrator of the shooting, Mutaz Khawaja from the Palestinian West Bank town of Ni’lin, was killed on the scene when two Israeli police officers, as well as two armed Israeli civilians, opened fire on the 23-year-old.

A similar shooting happened on Tel Aviv’s central Dizengoff street in April of last year, when a Palestinian gunman, later identified as 28-year-old Raad Fathi Khazem from Jenin, opened fire on the street, killing three Israelis. The attack came amid a wave of resistance to Jewish settler provocations and incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“There are not and will not be limits for this war,” then acting Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet stated. “We are granting full freedom of action to the army, the Shin Bet [domestic intelligence agency] and all security forces in order to defeat the terror.” At the time, Israel’s security apparatus had already launched a military assault on the West Bank to quash the rising wave of armed resistance in Nablus and Jenin, dubbed Operation Break the Wave.

In the last year, more than 30 Israelis have been killed, while Israeli forces and armed Jewish settlers have killed more than 310 Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians were killed as part of Israel’s systematic policy of extrajudicial executions, which it carries out in refugee camps and Palestinian towns.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss