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US sanctions Palestinian armed group Lions' Den, based in occupied West Bank

Sanctions fall under executive order introduced earlier this year targeting Israeli settlers in West Bank
Palestinian fighters from the Lions’ Den group rally in Nablus in the occupied West Bank on 23 October 2022.
Palestinian fighters from the Lions’ Den rally in Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on 23 October 2022 (Ahmad al-Bazz/MEE)

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on the Lions' Den, a Palestinian armed group based out of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

The Lions' Den has now become the first Palestinian group to be hit with US sanctions under an executive order issued by US President Joe Biden, which has previously been used to target violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

In a statement announcing the move, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller cited attacks by the Lions' Den on Israelis in the West Bank since 2022.

"The United States condemns any and all acts of violence committed in the West Bank, whoever the perpetrators, and we will use the tools at our disposal to expose and hold accountable those who threaten peace and stability there," Miller said.

The move would freeze any assets the group holds under US jurisdiction and bar Americans from dealing with the group, though it is unclear if the Lions' Den holds any links to the US financial system.

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The group emerged in 2022 in the Old City of Nablus and has engaged in firefights with Israeli forces and attacks on illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The armed group has gained popularity locally since its first official public appearance in September 2022.

The relatively new Palestinian group also has support from Palestinians across a broader Palestinian political spectrum.

The group's members include activists from Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The group also clashes with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the governing body in the West Bank, and many current members of the Lions' Den are Palestinians who the PA previously detained.

Sanctions don't apply to US settlers

In February, Biden issued an executive order which imposes targeted sanctions on individuals engaged in violence in the occupied West Bank.

The administration's first targets under the order were four Israeli settlers who engaged in violent activity against Palestinians, including an incident where settlers set fire to cars in an attack that killed one Palestinian civilian.

At the time the executive order was announced, a White House official emphasised that it would apply to Palestinians as well as Israelis.

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The US has said that the executive order will not apply to American citizens, another loophole for the tens of thousands of US citizens who have become Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Some of these Israeli-American settlers have been leading the rise in settler violence against Palestinians.

All Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bans occupying powers from settling in the area it occupies.

While most of the world's attention on Israel and Palestine has been focused on the war in Gaza, Israeli forces and settlers have been launching near-daily attacks on Palestinians across the occupied West Bank.

Since the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October, the number of attacks on Palestinians by Israeli security forces and settlers in the West Bank has risen to the highest level in decades.

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