The Lions' Den is a new terrorist group based in the West Bank city of Nablus, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The group consists of dozens of gunmen affiliated with a number of Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the ruling Fatah party headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The PA, which has hundreds of security officers in Nablus, has failed to take any measures to rein in the Lions' Den terrorists, who have claimed responsibility for a series of shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Nablus area over the past few weeks.
Instead of assuming its responsibility for halting terrorist attacks from areas under its control, the Palestinians continue to violate the agreements they signed with Israel.
Article XV of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip states:
"Both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other's authority and against their property, and shall take legal measures against offenders."
Article XIV states:
"Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police, and those of the Israeli military forces, no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment."
The reality on the ground, however, shows that the Palestinian Authority has failed to honor its agreements with Israel.
In the Gaza Strip, the PA did not take real measures to stop Hamas from building a massive terrorism infrastructure. Hamas later used its weapons arsenal not only to attack Israel, but also to overthrow the PA regime and seize full control of the Gaza Strip.
The same scenario is now being repeated in the West Bank, specifically in areas controlled by Mahmoud Abbas's security forces.
Since the beginning of the year, a number of terrorist groups, including the Lions' Den, have emerged in these areas, under the nose of Abbas, who appears either unwilling or unable to make his security forces to go after the terrorists. This, of course, is a clear violation of the Palestinians' obligations under the terms of the agreements signed with Israel.
Instead of trying to contain the terrorists, Abbas and the PA are condemning Israel for arresting or killing them. Instead of urging the armed groups to halt their daily attempts to murder Israelis, the Palestinian leaders are continuing to glorify the gunmen as "heroes" and "martyrs."
When Israeli security forces finally caught up with and killed some members of the Lions' Den group in Nablus, Abbas's spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, accused Israel of committing a "war crime" against the Palestinians. This is the twisted logic of the Palestinian leadership: Instead of denouncing the terrorists for targeting Israelis, as they have officially and repeatedly committed to doing, they lash out at Israel for defending itself against the current wave of terrorism.
Mahmoud Habbash, Abbas's religious affairs adviser, described killing the terrorists in Nablus as a "heinous massacre." Habbash went a step further by actively endorsing the terrorist attacks against Israel by stating that the terrorists have the right to "resist" Israel. It is worth noting that the terrorists also describe their attacks against Israelis as a form of "resistance."
When a senior Palestinian official such as Habbash says that the terrorists are entitled to carry out "resistance" attacks, he is actually telling them to continue targeting Israelis. Such statements are not only a violation of the agreements the Palestinians signed with Israel, but also an order to launch more terrorist attacks against Israelis.
One day before Israeli security forces raided a base belonging to the Lions' Den group in Nablus and killed one of its commanders, the PA Minister of Health, Mai al-Kaila, openly praised the terrorists. During a visit to Nablus, al-Kaila said: "We salute and respect the Lions' Den and the families of the martyrs."
The "martyrs" refers to the terrorists who were killed by Israeli security forces after they carried out terror attacks against Israelis. The minister's remarks make it sadly clear that the Palestinian leadership supports and glorifies any Palestinian who carried arms and chose to kill Israelis.
The Palestinian leadership, in a policy is known as "pay-for-slay," already provides monthly stipends to Palestinian terrorists imprisoned by Israel and to families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks. The families of the Nablus terrorists will also presumably benefit from these payments.
Abbas's Fatah faction is also continuing to heap praise on the terrorists. Monir al-Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, praised Uday Tamimi, a terrorist who shot dead a female Israeli soldier in Jerusalem in early October.
Another senior Fatah official, Abbas Zaki, also heaped praise on the Lions' Den group:
"Each one of us is a [member of] Lions' Den. Each one of us is a [member of] Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades [the armed wing of Fatah]."
The Palestinian leadership evidently has no problem with its loyalists in Fatah carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has endorsed some of the Lions' Den terrorists as its own "fighters," belongs to the faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian leadership's endorsement and glorification of terrorism comes as no surprise. What is surprising – and intensely disturbing – is that those foreign governments that are providing financial and political aid to the Palestinian Authority, especially the Americans and the Europeans, are not calling out Abbas and the Palestinian leadership for their public support of terrorism and their ongoing breach of the agreements they voluntarily signed with Israel.
"We will not resort to weapons, we will not resort to violence," Abbas declared in his last speech before the United Nations General Assembly, "we will not resort to terrorism, we will fight terrorism." His words were directed to the international community, not to his own people. Since his speech, Palestinians living in areas controlled by Abbas's security forces have carried out dozens of terrorist attacks against Israelis.
The silence of the Americans and Europeans toward the actions and rhetoric of the Palestinian leaders is tantamount to a green light to the Lions' Den and other terrorists to continue their terrorist attacks.
If the Biden administration and the Europeans believe that Abbas or any other Palestinian leader is going to stop a terrorist from murdering Jews, they are engaging in staggering self-deception.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.