Conflict Resumes in the West Bank During IDF Operations in Nablus

On Sunday morning, Israeli forces conducting counterterrorism operations in Nablus clashed with militants, resulting in the deaths of two members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the injury of a number of other gunmen.

According to local reports, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops entered Nablus around 2:00 a.m. and surrounded the home of the al-Azizi family located in the al-Yasimna neighborhood of Nablus. An armed clash ensued that resulted in the deaths of Muhammed Bashar al-Azizi and Abdul Rahman Jamal Subh, both members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

It’s unclear if Azizi and Subh were the primary targets of the IDF’s raid. Unconfirmed Palestinian reports say the target of the IDF’s raid in Nablus was Ibrahim Nabulsi, a militant who survived a firefight with the IDF in February. Since his escape, Nabulsi has been wanted by the IDF and has eluded several attempts to capture him.

While Nabulsi was not at the residence at the time of the IDF’s raid, he was later seen at the funeral of the slain militants hours after clashes ended.

Following the event, Katibat Nablus (Islamic Jihad umbrella group in Nablus) issued a statement claiming it engaged IDF troops in Nablus alongside al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fighters. The statement also claimed the group received assistance from its counterpart Katibat Jenin.

“Al-Quds Brigades, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fighters confronted the Zionist occupations forces, which at two o’clock in the morning stormed the Old City of Nablus and besieged some of the homes of our honorable fighters where armed clashes took place. We also confirm, in Al-Quds Brigades, that some of our fighters from the valiant city of Jenin succeeded in reaching the confrontation arena in Nablus and joined forces with their brothers in the field who rained direct bullets on the occupation forces,” the statement said.

While the statement by Katibat Nablus was mostly unremarkable, the claim that militants from another formation in the West Bank joined the fighting appears to be the first time Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has acknowledged its network of groups support one another during conflict. In this case, Katibat Jenin militants traveled approximately 43 kilometers south to aide Katibat Nablus as it engaged IDF troops in a firefight.

FDD’s Long War Journal has closely tracked the rise in militant activity in the West Bank since last year. In a concerning trend, formations made up of mostly PIJ militants have been established in several West Bank cities including Jenin, Tubas, Nablus and Tulkarm. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Palestinian Islamic Jihad Purportedly Establishes New Formation in the West Bank.]

Sunday morning’s clashes indicate that a recent lull in fighting has not deterred militants in the West Bank from engaging IDF troops operating in the area. Coupled with the establishment of PIJ umbrella groups in various West Bank cities, it does not appear the IDF’s operations have had a serious effect in stemming the tide of rising militancy in the area.

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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