Ten Israeli Arabs have united with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, to fight in Iraq and Syria, according to reports based on Israeli Shin Bet security services sources, The Times of Israel reports.
Israeli Arabs’ interest in jihadi groups has increased, mostly in the al-Nusra Front and recently in the Islamic State.
Although the numbers remain relatively low for the time being, the national security agency is keeping a close eye on those suspected of joining the jihadists, worrying that they will return to carry out attacks in Israel and radicalize the population.
The development of Israeli Arabs fighting in Syria is “especially worrying” for Israel. Security forces expect Israeli citizens fighting in Syria to become “further radicalized” and to undergo jihadist military training. Furthermore, jihadist groups have used the Israeli Arabs to obtain information about Israel.
Meanwhile, citing intelligence sources, Israel’s Channel 2 reports that Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have also joined the ranks of the Islamic State group. Those Palestinians who return from jihadist Islamic State training could further incite a population that is already somewhat radicalized.
The reports comes on the heels of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s formal designation of the organization as a terror group, along with the al-Qaeda affiliated Abdallah Azzam Brigades. “That move enables Israel to act against the organizations by prohibiting gatherings, recruitment, fundraising and other activities.”
The Shin Bet recommended the step for the purpose of assuring the additional legal tools necessary to deal with Palestinian jihadis who return from battle in Syria and Iraq.
Even within Israel, there have been shows of Arab support for ISIS. On Wednesday night, Israel’s Channel 10 aired footage of an Islamic State rally on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount which occurred on a recent Friday. The Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place, is also the site of the al-Aqsa mosque, holy to Muslims and frequently the site of fiery Islamist sermons.
The report, which will be broadcast in full next week, said the gathering underlined that the Islamic State intends to focus on Israel in the future.
The gathering, attended by thousands of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs, was organized by the Tahrir party, which the report described as the “Palestine branch” of the Islamic State.
“Speakers were filmed declaring their anticipation of the ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem and decrying Jewish ‘pollution’ of the city. Several black [ISIS] flags were seen in the footage.”