West Bank Militants Reorganize, Establish Joint Operations Room

A newly formed Joint Operations Room (JOR) called Hizam al-Nar has been established in the West Bank. The JOR is made up of members of Katibat Jenin (Jenin branch of Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Fatah).

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have operated in the West Bank since the second intifada. However, Katibat Jenin appears to be a relatively new formation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters or a rebranding of its already long-established presence in the West Bank, particularly in the Jenin refugee camp.

Ziyad Nakhalah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s secretary-general, first mentioned Katibat Jenin in a speech lauding the “mujahideen” of the West Bank shortly after the escape of six militants from Gilboa prison in Sept. 2021. The prison escape led to a short-lived revival of a PIJ-Hamas-Fatah-led JOR that was originally established in 2002 during the second intifada.

A detailed look into the nascent organization shows that in late January, a Telegram channel was created to establish the group’s online presence. Video publications of claimed attacks soon followed, however, the recordings did not clearly identify Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) soldiers being engaged by Hizam al-Nar fighters.

A Feb. 14 claim by the JOR spokesperson, Abu Mua’ad took credit for attacking IDF vehicles with a “new device” called “Tawalbeh 25.” Although the organization did not provide additional information, the “device” is likely named after Mahmoud Tawalbeh, a locally revered Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander killed by the IDF in 2002.

It is noteworthy to mention that reports from local Palestinian media outlets do corroborate some attacks claimed by the JOR.

The formation of Hizam al-Nar is likely a response to the increase in Israeli military operations against militants in the West Bank going to back to early 2021. A number of these operations have resulted in the deaths of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members. [See LWJ report, Analysis: The Surge in Militant Activity in the West Bank.]

Additionally, FDD’s Long War Journal has observed a notable increase in online militant chatter claiming shooting attacks against IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank by various Palestinian militant organizations over the last six months. However, Long War Journal could not independently verify the claims.

Hizam al-Nar appears to be distinct and its establishment has the potential to be significant. Video publications of shootings, regular announcements taking credit for targeting IDF soldiers and the creation of an official logo suggests an organized attempt to dramatically increase attacks against Israeli security operations in the West Bank.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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