Israel has indicted seven Israeli Arabs suspected of being members of an “Islamic State cell in Palestine.” The group was allegedly planning to carry out a shooting attack on Israeli soil, according to the Israeli security service.
Believed to be the first cell operating in Israel and Palestine, all seven men have admitted their allegiance to the Islamic State, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced. Initially a Salafi jihadi group based in the West Bank, the cell was allegedly planning to become an “official” Islamic State branch in Israel.
The detained cell members were indicted in Haifa District Court on Sunday, on “suspicion of membership and activity in an unlawful association, supporting a terrorist organization and attempted contact with a foreign agent,” Israel National News reports. The suspects were arrested in November and December of last year.
One of the suspects told security forces they were planning an attack on the security establishment and the Druze – a branch of the Shia Islam community found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. Then the group would eventually travel to Syria to join ISIS’s cause.
Shin Bet said the cell was in contact with ISIS fighters in Syria communicating with them via social media. Authorities also said that cell members met with a sheikh connected to the Salafist jihadist movement.
“The meetings with the sheikh, which focused on religious studies, featured preaching and persuasion to believe in the jihadist path,” the Shin Bet statement said, according to Haaretz.
According to Shin Bet, at those meetings the suspects learned how to make Molotov cocktails and how to slaughter animals – as a “mental preparation for slaughtering ‘infidels’ on Syrian soil.”
One 40-year-old suspect, Adnan Jameel Said Al-A-Din, presented himself as the “Commander of ISIS in Palestine,” according to Shin Bet. Another man, Karim Abu Salah, planned to travel to Syria last summer but was stopped by authorities. After the unsuccessful attempt, he joined the cell headed by Al-A-Din.
All seven men denied the charges, claiming they are no threat to Israel, their lawyers said, according to Reuters. The legal team also claimed the suspects were targeted for their religion.
“The discovery of the outlawed organization in Israel and the prevention of deadly shooting attacks by one of its members points to a dangerous escalation among Israeli Arabs who advocate an ideology of global jihad and see the path of Islamic State as a way to fulfill their vision of establishing an Islamic caliphate,” Shin Bet’s statement reads.