The New Arab / March 2, 2023
Following three Israeli massacres in less than two months, the militant Tulkarm Brigade has announced the formation of “swift response” units to fight against Israel.
Nearly a year after new armed formations began emerging in the northern West Bank – taking Palestinian resistance to a new level, militants in Tulkarm are entering the fray.
The “Tulkarm Brigade” announced via a video message on its Telegram channel that “rapid response groups” had been assembled to respond to Israel’s massacre in Nablus on 22 February in which 11 Palestinians were killed, as well as the two prior massacres in Jericho and Jenin.
Two days ago, the Tulkarm Brigade announced that they had targeted Avnei Hefetz, an illegal Jewish settlement located in southeast Tulkarm district.
Two days before they reported a shooting operation at the Zemer military gate, which connects the area to Israel, claiming that casualties had been inflicted among Israeli soldiers and threatening “a volcano of operations that will not be quelled.”
The brigade has used the term “rapid response groups” for the newly formed militant units after Raed al-Karmi, who was leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a military faction of Fatah which became prominent during the Second Palestinian Intifada.
He was known for organising rapid armed operations in response to Israeli assassinations and attacks, such as Israel’s assassination of Fatah’s official Thabet Thabet in Tulkarm in late 2000.
The Tulkarm Brigade has announced its presence at a sensitive time, after the Lion’s Den in Nablus announced that the “train of resistance” in the West Bank had launched, stating: “After Tulkarm’s accession to the armed resistance and the completion of the formation of its cells, the resistance in the West Bank now has a shield and a sword.”
Their statement came after six Lions’ Den members were killed on 23 February.
A source close to the Tulkarm Brigade who wished to remain anonymous spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby al-Jadeed about the re-emergence of what was formerly known as the “Triangle of Fear” (Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm) which was active in 2000 during the Second Intifada.
They said that this had been organized through a high level of coordination on all fronts between the Tulkarm Brigade, the Lion’s Den in Nablus and the Jenin Brigade.
The source said: “The restructuring of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has been carried out in key locations across Palestine, especially in the West Bank, where the leadership structure has been reconstituted and the previous approach of the brigades has been restored. We don’t follow foreign agendas, and our decision is unanimous: to fight against the occupiers with all the means at our disposal, and the path we have chosen is armed struggle.”
This contradicts the 2007 decree issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas which banned “armed militias and irregular military formations, regardless of their affiliation”, which was rejected by Al-Aqsa Brigades as well as by the military wings of other Palestinian factions.
The fact that the Tulkarm Brigade’s banner carries Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades logo on it has led some to question whether it’s views align with Fatah’s current party line.
However, Iyad Jarad, Fatah’s secretary in Tulkarm, said that its emergence expresses the will of the Palestinian people in general, and is a natural outgrowth of what is happening in Jenin and Nablus, which is a response to Israel’s actions.
Jarad said that the armed brigades’ emergence is reflective both of the current complete political impasse and Israel ramping up its aggression against Nablus, Jenin and Jerusalem.
He highlighted the PA’s inability to reach a solution with the Israelis which will end the conflict and increasing popular solidarity with armed struggle across Palestine.
The launch of resistance operations by the Tulkarm Brigade coincides with Jordan’s hosting of high-level talks at the Aqaba Summit on Sunday, which was attended by PA and Israeli officials.
The source said that the Tulkarm Brigade consider any attempt to deter resistance unacceptable. He said that operations against Israel will continue and “big surprises” are coming.
Previously, the PA unsuccessfully pressured members of the Lion’s Den and the Jenin Brigade to hand themselves in, in exchange for amnesty from Israel, in addition to lucrative employment opportunities and other privileges.
Regarding the likelihood of concerted pressure on members of the Tulkarm Brigade, and their prosecution by security services, Jarad says: “There has never been an actual prosecution on security grounds before, and when it comes to the Palestinian public, no one is against anyone. However, our fears have always been the possible descent into lawlessness, and security issues, and a lack of restraint, and how that could damage the struggle, and be harmful to the public interest.”