Some 200 Israeli Citizens Identify With ISIS, Defense Officials Say

Israeli officials believe that videos posted on social media from the scene of recent attacks are a driver of copycat attacks, and have already issued orders restricting movement for six Israeli Arabs, with several more pending

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Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai, center.
Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai, center.Credit: Rami Shllush
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Israel's defense establishment estimates that some 200 Israeli Arabs identify with the Islamic State, 20 of whom they believe might carry out attacks in Israel in the organization’s name.

At a situation assessment on Sunday, defense officials briefed politicians on their large-scale intelligence effort to monitor social media and take other steps to identify potential suspects.

To date, six Israeli Arabs who identify with the organization have been served with orders restricting their movement, while another round of orders currently await judicial approval.

Defense officials also say a few dozen Israeli Arabs have traveled to Syria, Iraq or Sinai to join the Islamic State there. Their identities are known, and they would be arrested if they ever return to Israel. A few of them are known to have been killed while fighting in the organization’s ranks.

In a nod to the security echelon's digital front in combatting attacks, officials believe that videos posted on social media from the scene of recent attacks are a driver of copycat attacks. In a bid to prevent videos of attacks from circulating, officials have asked the government to consider passing a law that would forbid Israeli citizens to do so, similar to the law that bans posting content associated with pedophilia.

While officials say their goal during Ramadan is to thwart attacks, they emphasized that they want to avoid flooding the West Bank with soldiers or conducting operations in broad daylight in an effort to temper growing flames.

Defense officials also attribute great importance to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the Be’er Sheva and Hadera attacks. One senior defense official termed it a “big deal.”

“He essentially said ‘Don’t go crazy now, we’re in a war against the Islamic State together,’” the official said. “He also understands the significance of Islamic State in the West Bank.”

According to their overall assessment, defense officials believe that most Palestinians should be allowed to celebrate Ramadan as usual, without any measures that would make this more difficult or impede their ability to earn a living. Most Palestinians don’t identify with the Islamic State, they said, and Palestinian workers have even harshly criticized the Palestinian who committed last week’s attack in Bnei Brak – who wasn’t associated with the Islamic State – on the grounds that he severely harmed the livelihoods of tens of thousand of Palestinians on the eve of the holiday.

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