In West Bank, New Armed Groups Emerge, and Dormant Ones Stir

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After a violent uprising by Palestinians against Israel subsided nearly two decades ago, Abu Abdallah, then a leader of a Palestinian militia, stashed away his assault rifle and later became a civil servant in the West Bank city of Nablus.

When Israeli troops raided Nablus late last month, Abu Abdallah, now 42, lent that rifle to a group of Palestinian gunmen 20 years younger who were locked in a four-hour gun battle with the soldiers in the Palestinian city. That made him a party to the conflict for the first time in years — one of several former fighters who returned to the fray that day, he said.

“We have this feeling that we need to do our duty,” said Abu Abdallah, who asked to be identified by his nom de guerre in order to avoid legal repercussions.

For years, the Palestinian Authority, the semiautonomous body that administers cities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, like Nablus, worked with Israel to keep Palestinian militias in relative check. The authority had hoped that building enough trust with Israeli leaders would persuade them to allow the formation of a Palestinian state.

But in cities like Nablus, the authority’s control is ebbing and its popularity is plummeting as hopes of statehood all but evaporate. A younger generation of gunmen has become increasingly active over the past year, mounting more shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians, and opening fire far more often during Israeli raids on their towns.