A new group calling itself the Tulkarm Brigade announced the formation of “rapid response groups” in response to Israeli security raids, following he IDF raid in Nablus on Feb. 22, which resulted in 11 Palestinian deaths and 100 wounded.
The group has claimed responsibility for a shooting attack at Zemer checkpoint and at the Avnei Hefetz settlement located southeast of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.
The use of the term “rapid response groups” is a reference to Raed al-Karmi of Tulkarm, who was the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades during the second Intifada.
Al-Karmi was well known for organizing rapid armed attacks in response to Israeli military raids.
The group announced its formation as the Israel Defense Forces has been waging its Operation Break the Wave, aimed at preventing a third Intifada. The operation was started last year in response to increasing violence in what are primarily called “lone wolf” attacks.
The Tulkarm Brigade announcement came shortly after the Lion’s Den proclaimed that a “train of resistance” had been launched in the Palestinian territories.
“After Tulkarm’s accession to the armed resistance and the completion of the formation of its cells, the resistance in the West Bank now has a shield and a sword,” the group said in a released statement following the killing of six Lion’s Den members while battling against IDF security forces.
A member of the group, speaking anonymously with the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site said the group was reviving the “Triangle of Fear” (Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm) which was active during the second Intifada.
“The restructuring of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has been carried out in key locations across Palestine, especially in the West Bank, where the leadership structure has been reconstituted and the previous approach of the brigades has been restored. We don't follow foreign agendas, and our decision is unanimous: To fight against the occupiers with all the means at our disposal, and the path we have chosen is armed struggle," the unnamed source said regarding a growing dissatisfaction with the Palestinian Authority.
Iyad Jarad, Fatah’s secretary in Tulkarm, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the Tulkarm Brigade’s emergence is an expression of the will of the Palestinian people and is a response to Israeli aggression.
However, not all Palestinians agree.
The city of Tulkarm has been relatively calm during the most recent wave of violence. PA security forces have reportedly been operating quickly to stop the group from gaining a foothold in the city.
In the last week, PA security forces and Israeli security forces have reportedly made attempts to apprehend the group’s founder, with three men suspected arrested by PA forces.
The Tulkarm group responded with a statement, “Don’t be the first to betray [your people].”
“We don’t want a confrontation with you because you are our brothers and cousins. Stop chasing and following us. We’re not calling into question your patriotism, but we have no confidence in your leadership,” they said.
A senior official from the Tulkarm municipality told The Jerusalem Post that the local population is concerned.
“Of course, people here are worried,” the official said. “We don’t want to provide an excuse for the Israeli army to storm Tulkarm and kill people. We also don’t want the Arab Israelis to stop visiting Tulkarm. That would be very bad for the economy. Look what's happening in Nablus and Jenin; it's a disaster."
In a recent statement, Nablus governor condemned the violence, telling the Lion’s Den terror cell, “That’s enough.”
However, not all Palestinians agree.
A recent poll indicates that many Palestinians support terror groups like Lion’s Den and the Tulkarm Brigade.
Yusef Ismail, a Fatah activist from Tulkarm who spent three years in an Israeli prison said, “Many people are very angry with the Palestinian Authority leadership.”