The Shin Bet has arrested five Israeli Arab suspected of attempting to set up an ISIS terror cell in Israel, it was cleared for publication Tuesday. According to the Shin Bet, the group had already started to meet and had even begun training with live arms.
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All five are residents of Nazareth and were arrested in past months by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police. The Shin Bet said that the group had grown increasingly radicalized in recent months and had even sworn allegiance to ISIS and a "jihad against infidels."
The state's prosecution requested all five be held in custody until the end of legal proceedings against them. According to the indictment, the group met and spoke at lengths about ISIS, watching the terror group's videos. "In addition to the clear threat to public security posed by their positions and actions, we should note the fact that the [suspects] had weapons and were planning to equip themselves with even more weapons," state prosecutor Roee Alfasi said.
"[People like these] pose a real and imminent threat to the public safety, especially in days like these," he said in reference to ongoing attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Israel. "The only way to protect the public is to put them behind bars," he said.
After their arrests, the suspects led the police to the location of the arms, where the police found a Russian SKS rifle and a Carl Gustav m/45 rifle. They are being charged with position of arms, and offenses pertaining to affiliation with an illegal organization.
The youngest of the group is 18 years old and all five allegedly confessed to working to attain arms.
Attorney Saher Faer, who represents two of the defendants and another suspect who was released without charges, told Haaretz that the defendants admitted to some of the charges, but deny that they support Islamic State.
"The indictment doesn’t speak of [ISIS] membership, at first there was a suspicion of membership, but in the end it was presented with a lesser offense," he said.
As for the released suspect, Faer said that during his extended detention it seemed that his was a graver case, "but in the end it was revealed that there wasn't evidence for prosecution, even though a prosecutor's statement was already filed against him, and he was released today."
This is not the first time Israeli Arabs have been involved with the Islamic State group, and only in November the Shin Bet announced that five other Israeli citizens were charged with attempting to join ISIS fighters in Syria.
In October, a 23-year-old Israeli Arab paraglided over the border into Syria in an apparent attempt to join the civil war, though it was unclear if his intention was to join ISIS.
In August, an Israeli Arab woman was held in Turkey for attempting to travel to Syria to join the group, and an Israeli Arab and a Palestinian from East Jerusalem were indicted for also allegedly trying to join ISIS in Syria.