The targeted killings will not eliminate the “Lion’s Den” group

Israel has decided to renew the policy of targeted killings in the West Bank of dangerous terrorists who engage in terrorism against Israelis. This is a decision stemming from political considerations to avoid a large military operation in Nablus on the eve of the elections, targeted killings are not enough to stop terrorism.

Israel is entering a new phase in the war against terrorism in the West Bank, the security cabinet approved the return to the policy of targeted killings in the West Bank
to fight the phenomenon of the terrorist group called “Lion’s Den” which operates in the city of Nablus.

As part of this decision, a member of the group, the terrorist Tamer Kilani, was assassinated in the old city of Nablus using a trapped motorcycle.

The cabinet’s decision stems from political considerations of the election campaign, it seems that Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Gantz are not interested in a large military operation in Nablus on the eve of the elections for fear of a large number of casualties among IDF soldiers and also fear of the reaction of the American administration to such an operation, therefore they are trying to target the terrorists members of the “Lion’s Den” group from a far distance, it is possible that soon we will also see the use of attack drones for the targeted assassination operations in the cities of Nablus and Jenin after

the Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi approved their use in the West Bank.

The cabinet’s decision brings back the Shin Bet and the IDF to a pattern of action in the West Bank that they have avoided in the past 15 years, and this is because of the increase in terrorism.

The terrorist organizations are already threatening retaliatory actions for the assassination of the terrorist Tamer Kilani in Nablus, the Israeli decision to return to the policy of targeted killings is seen on the Palestinian street as a weakness of the Lapid-Ganz government which fears to confront the terrorist groups in the West Bank and only strengthens the determination of these groups to continue their terrorist activities.

Sources in Nablus say that the Israeli decision indicates the failure of the collective punishment system and its great fear of the “Lion’s Den” group .

Sources in the IDF claim that the targeted killing in Nablus, sent a message to the “Lion’s Den” group that reinforces the Israeli deterrence and indicates the transfer of the war to the enemy’s territory.

It is true that the assassination in Nablus indicates the very high intelligence and execution capabilities of the Israeli Shin Bet, but this step does not deter the terrorist group but rather increases its popularity in the field and will force it to perfect its methods of operation against Israel, it motivates it to show that its terrorist capabilities have not been impaired as a result of the death of Tamer Khilani.

The claim that the Shin Bet’s targeted assassinations in Nablus will help restore the PA’s rule in the city is not true, the targeted assassinations cannot lead to the remote assassination of all the terrorist groups operating in Nablus and are not an effective substitute for broad IDF ground activity in Nablus, they are meant to buy time for the political echelon that wants to avoid a major military operation in the city of Nablus before the Knesset elections.

Israel has not officially accepted the responsibility for the assassination of Tamer Kilani, it maintains ambiguity, although on the other hand, senior political figures are leaking to the media that it was the security cabinet that made the decision to renew the targeted killings in the West Bank.

Of course, one should not regret the death of any terrorist, certainly not the death of Tamer Kilani who sent another armed terrorist to carry out the attack in the city of Jaffa and who was only luckily caught by the police.

Tamer Kilani himself spent 8 years in an Israeli prison for security offenses and also participated himself in attacks against Israel and planned additional attacks, but like him there are hundreds of other armed terrorists in the Nablus and Jenin areas.

The tight blockade on the city of Nablus has lasted for two weeks to prevent the terrorists of the “Lion’s Den” group from going to the main roads to carry out shooting attacks and it will continue until after the Knesset elections, but it cannot be left forever because it causes great economic damage to the commercial life of the city of Nablus and is seen as a collective punishment. The Palestinian Authority is already complaining to the international community about the continuation of the blockade and it is only a matter of time until the Biden administration demands that Israel lift the blockade immediately.

There is no escaping a major military operation in Nablus and Jenin

The renewal of targeted killings against the terrorist groups in the West Bank is important but cannot be a proper substitute for a large military operation inside the city of Nablus to eliminate the “Lion’s Den” group, as Israel did in the first intifada when it eliminated similar terrorist groups called the “Black Panther” and the “Red Eagle” in the city of Nablus in 1989.

One successful attack by the “Lions’ Den” group or another terrorist group is enough to erode the deterrence achieved by the assassination of Tamer Kilani, if indeed such a deterrence was achieved.

The assassination of Tamer Kilani challenges the terrorist organizations, the terrorists in the West Bank have begun to take precautions against targeted assassinations using drones, Shin Bet collaborators and undercover units and they are planning to increase terrorist activities to try to prove to Israel that the renewal of the policy of targeted killings is not effective.

The political echelon cannot escape the harsh reality dictated by the terrorist organizations, after the Knesset elections it will have to order an extensive military operation, first in the city of Nablus and then in the city of Jenin, the terrorism will continue and the IDF will have to protect the Israeli soldiers and citizens with the most effective methods, the targeted killings alone cannot stop terrorism, they are only one tool in a series of tools in the hands of the security system to fight terrorism.

Yoni Ben Menachem Senior Middle East Analyst

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East senior analyst ,a journalist and
the former CEO of the Israel Broadcasting Authority(IBA). He has
decades of experience in written and video journalism. Ben
Menachem’s path in the media world began as a producer for
Japanese television in the Middle East. After that, he held many key
positions in the media The Israeli: CEO of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, director of “Kol Israel” Radio, reporter on West Bank and
Gaza Strip affairs, political reporter and commentator, commentator
on Middle East affairs and editor-in-chief and presenter of the
program “Middle East Magazine”. 

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