A shadowy group calling itself the "Galilee Freedom Fighters" claimed Thursday that seven Israeli Arabs who have been arrested on terrorism charges were its operatives.
"We announce with pride and honor that these brothers are members of the Galilee Freedom Fighters and its various branches," stated an email sent to Haaretz stated.
The detainees, two of whom are minors, are suspected of planning terror attacks and attempting to kidnap Israel Defense Forces soldiers. Authorities had maintained a gag order over the case, which prevented media outlets from releasing details about it until Thursday.
In the email, the Galilee Freedom Fighters said it had other operatives who were preparing to carry out attacks in Israel.
"You won't enjoy security and serenity since our cells, which are spread across all of Palestine of 1948 [Israel], are readying for you more acts of bravery," it said.
"These will not end until your defeated regime is destroyed."
Five years ago, two Israeli Arabs who claimed to be members of the group were convicted of murdering Israel Defense Forces soldier Oleg Shaichat.
The organization has claimed responsibility for a number of terror attacks in recent years, although defense officials have yet to determine whether the organization is real.
It emerged Thursday that the indictments against the suspects include charges of aiding the enemy during wartime, contacting a foreign agent and conspiracy. They also include multiple weapons charges.
During a search of the suspects' homes, authorities uncovered explosives that were ready to be activated, computer files, and other pieces of incriminating evidence.
The members of the cell have been identified as Abdallah Harubi, 19; Suheib Kabaha, 20; Kutaib Kabaha, 21; Mohammed Kabaha, 20; Ahmed Kabaha, 20; and two 17-year-old youths. Harubi is a resident of the northern village of Maghar while all the other suspects live in Barta'a, near Haifa.
The indictment accuses Harubi of planning to recruit operatives who would abduct soldiers and carry out terrorist attacks by planting explosives. They simulated a kidnapping and detonated explosives in an effort to calibrate their potency.
The suspects were arrested in a joint operation by police and the Shin Bet security service. During searches of the suspects' homes, authorities found nine explosive belts ready to be detonated and information on their computers that implicated them in the plot.
Police said that the group was arrested shortly before executing their plot.
During the interrogation, Harubi revealed that the cell had planned on "acting against the state of Israel and its soldiers." Harubi led authorities to the remaining suspects, some of whom were allegedly tasked with hiding weapons and planning an escape route for the terrorists after carrying out the abductions. The two youths were arrested after being found in possession of makeshift pipe bombs.
In recent years, Israeli Arabs and Israeli identity card-carrying Palestinians in East Jerusalem have become increasingly involved in terrorist acts against various targets in the country.
Over the course of the last five years, there have been at least six documented instances of attacks committed by Israeli Arabs or East Jerusalem residents.
Some of these attacks were claimed by the Galilee Freedom Fighters, although most of the assailants acted on their own volition and were not assisted by any organizational structure.
Officials in the security establishment believe most of the attacks were perpetrated by lone assailants, a fact which made it more difficult for the police and the army to gain information that would enable them to preemptively thwart the attack.
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