Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon declared the jihadist group Islamic State an "unauthorized organization" Wednesday, laying the legal groundwork for the possibility that Israel might discover Islamic State cells within its borders or in the West Bank.
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"This is necessary for the purposes of protecting state security, the public welfare and public order," said Ya'alon.
The move is a proactive step enabling Israel to halt the transfer of funds to any local groups affiliated with Islamic State and take legal action against its members or operatives.
The Defense Ministry website defines an unauthorized organization as any group of people that "suggests, incites or encourages" unauthorized activity including terrorism targeting the Israeli government and states that Israel may legally seize any assets of an unauthorized organization.
A day after Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, who also had Israeli citizenship, an Israeli defense official said Israel was preparing for the possibility of discovering a local Islamic State cell in Israel or the West Bank.
Although Islamic State is active in Iraq and Syria, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces' Northern Command said he has not seen Islamic State activities in the Golan Heights area up to 50 kilometers from the border.
That could change, though, the officer said, adding: "But they could arrive in the future."
Ya'alon also declared the Al-Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which operates in Lebanon, an unauthorized organization Wednesday.