The Russia-Ukraine war starting in February, pressured many political entities, including Palestinians, to take sides or, at least, to declare a position. Though the Palestinian Authority (PA) and various Palestinian political parties insisted on their neutrality, Russia’s deviation from the US-led political paradigm in the Middle East opened up new margins for Palestinians to explore. On May 4, a delegation of Hamas leaders met Russian officials in Moscow, and a few months later, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas defied Washington by holding a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Astana, Kazakhstan. Despite US anger at Abbas, Washington could do little to retaliate against the Palestinian leadership, considering the delicate geopolitical balances in the Middle East and around the world.
Just when Israel, and even some Palestinians, began talking about the Lions’ Den phenomenon in the past tense, a large number of fighters belonging to the newly-formed Palestinian group marched in the city of Nablus. Unlike the group’s first appearance on September 2, the number of fighters who took part in the rally in the Old City of Nablus on December 9 was significantly larger, better equipped, with unified military fatigues and greater security precautions. “The Den belongs to all of Palestine and believes in the unity of blood, struggle and rifles”, a reference to the kind of collective Resistance that surpasses factional interests. Needless to say, the event was significant. Only two months ago, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz undermined the group in terms of number and influence, estimating their number to be “of some 30 members”, pledging to “get our hands on them (..) and eliminate them”.