The New Generation of Palestinian Armed Groups: A Paper Tiger?

(International Crisis Group-Belgium) A new generation of unaligned, independent armed groups has arisen among West Bank Palestinians, driven by frustration with the Palestinians' own ineffective leadership. It is no coincidence that the first such groups popped up in May 2021, after the PA cancelled legislative and presidential elections. The PA has worked to undercut the groups, resorting mainly to covert measures to do so. First, the PA is accusing the new groups' members of having criminal backgrounds. Such warnings resonate with many West Bank residents, who remember the second intifada in the early 2000s, when men with guns engaged in extortion in several towns. In Nablus, where an armed group called Lions' Den is active, the PA has even sent its own supporters, posing as Lions' Den members, to shake down businesses in an attempt to tarnish the group's reputation. The PA also seeks to co-opt those who agree to disarm by offering them jobs in the security forces, cars and money. The two largest groups are the Jenin Brigades - 200 militants at most - drawn mostly from disgruntled members of Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Lions' Den in Nablus, which has at most 100 members, mainly dissidents from Fatah but also some Hamas elements. Many members have freely shared their names online and their actions appear highly performative, embellished through excited declarations on the social media platform Telegram. They have no apparent political agenda, organization or strategy.

2023-04-20 00:00:00

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