Drones, helicopters, militarized vehicles, anti-tank missiles and armor piercing rounds were all deployed by Israeli forces, yet they were unable to arrest or harm their target suspect.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Palestinian resistance factions based in the West Bank city of Nablus fought Israeli occupation forces for over three hours, during which missiles were used to attack Palestinians. Despite how heavy handed the occupation forces came in, they failed to achieve their objectives due to the unity of the northern West Bank resistance.
This Sunday morning proved an important marker for just how threatening Palestinian resistance forces are to “Israel’s” occupation of the West Bank. Israeli ground forces, including “YAMAM” special forces units, stormed the Old City of Nablus, reportedly seeking to arrest or kill a commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, named Ibrahim Nablusi. Nablusi was said to have escaped an Israeli assassination attempt back in February, when Israeli forces ambushed a civilian car, spraying bullets indescriminately and killing three other Palestinians.
The raid into the Al-Yasmina neighborhood was the largest Israeli attack on Nablus since 2002, involving special forces units, police forces and regular infantry. Drones, helicopters, militarized vehicles, anti-tank missiles and armor piercing rounds were all deployed by Israeli forces, yet they were unable to arrest or harm their target suspect. This was due to the instant reaction of Palestinian armed resistance forces, who ambushed the occupiers upon entry into the area and bogged them down for over three hours in several gunfights. A home was even bombarded with anti-tank missiles, twice, whilst Palestinians began to gather with stones to back up the armed resistance fighters.
It is not a regular occurrence for Israeli forces to use missiles in the West Bank, in fact this is something not seen since the second intifada – 2000 to 2005 – yet this made no difference for the people of Nablus. In a telling show of solidarity, the streets were instantly packed with stone-throwing demonstrators and the Mosques throughout Nablus were calling on the people to confront the invading forces. Simultaneously armed groups affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) party’s armed wing, the Al-Quds brigades, opened fire on checkpoints in the Jenin and Tubas areas of the northern West Bank. Ultimately, two Palestinians were killed in Nablus by Israeli forces; Mohammed al-Azizi (25 yrs old) and Abdul-Rahman Sobh (28 yrs old). 19 other Palestinians were injured, 10 by live ammunition and it was said that at least 5 Israeli forces were shot during an ambush, however, the Zionist regime has refused to give details on its own possible casualties that were observed by locals.
Another interesting aspect to the armed clashes in Nablus was that the Palestinian Authority (PA) – or at least those affiliated with it – felt the need to use online trolls to spread disinformation about the presence of PA security forces in the fight against Israeli ground forces. PA forces never entered into the gunfights, yet it is telling that pro-PA accounts online felt the need for such propaganda and it points to an obvious paradigm shift; if any political force seeks legitimacy it will only come through resistance. Since the era of Olso Accords, post 1993-5, the Palestinian Authority has sought to pursue a backing of strategic “Popular non-violent resistance” and despite wide support in Palestine for non-violent struggle, it is well understood that the litmus test for who is truly on your side comes to their position on the armed struggle. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – now absorbed by the PA – had long condemned “terrorism”, prominently in 1988 this position was stated by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and since Oslo the PA then decided to condemn almost all forms of armed struggle. After the death of Arafat and the acquisition of power by now PA President Mahmoud Abbas, all forms of armed struggle against “Israel” are not only condemned but are actively punished. However, since the battle of Saif al-Quds last year, in May, armed groups have rapidly begun to emerge throughout the West Bank, especially in Jenin, Nablus and Qalqilya.
65 Palestinians have been murdered by the occupation forces since the start of the year, many of them resistance fighters and most of the murders have taken place in the West Bank. Countless resistance attacks on checkpoints, settlers, settlements, soldiers and invading forces have also taken place this year, spanning all over the West Bank, from al-Khalil to Jenin, a development which has been paired with more aggressive tactics from the Zionist occupier. All of this has created an environment in which belief in the armed struggle as the principle method of liberation is now prominent in the West Bank and anyone standing in the way of that is viewed as the enemy and a collaborator. This has led to serious disputes within the Fatah party, which runs the West Bank’s PA, as there is serious opposition to the current political positions held by the pro-Mahmoud Abbas group that runs the party.
At this point many may be wondering why an Intifada has not yet erupted and this is where we have to be honest with ourselves and analyze the current predicament. There are armed groups all over the West Bank, clearly feared by the Israeli military and present a growing threat, but this is the start of a new armed struggle phase in the West Bank. The groups in the West Bank, including in Jenin, are not professional like the resistance in the Gaza Strip and do not have access to the weapons materials available there either. Most of the experienced resistance commanders in the West Bank are either in prison, like Zakaria Zubeidi, or were killed and so the experience level of the resistance is not to be overestimated and will take time to develop.
Whilst the resistance forces in the West Bank are committed and courageous fighters, not afraid of death but rather seeking martyrdom, they are not a fully fledged military force and require work. This is important to understand for those who are now starting to criticize them and should be understood in the event that “Israel” launches a full scale assault aimed at destroying the West Bank resistance. They do not have the advantages that the resistance had during the second intifada, nor do they have the access to the same weapons, so if they do suffer defeats in the future it should not undermine the resistance as a whole. This is a resistance that does an incredible job given its constraints and is committed to its cause, it also manages to inspire the people of the villages and cities it represents.
The reason why the resistance exists primarily in the north of the West Bank is similar to the reason it existed there in the past, it is less easy to control geographically than places like al-Khalil where there is certainly support and a desire for it. As long as the PA security apparatus is in the hands of rulers who work with “Israel” on security coordination and refuse to turn their guns on the occupiers, the armed struggle will not be on the level that we see in the Gaza Strip, but the revolutionaries now fighting in armed groups throughout the West Bank are the beginning of a new era of armed struggle. If this armed struggle continues to grow and capture the hearts of the Palestinian people it surrounds, it will eventually pave the way for an Israeli retreat from many areas of the West Bank and make the territory a living hell for its forces.