Police Official Points at Shin Bet 'Weakness' After Two Attacks by ISIS Supporters

Over the last three years, Shin Bet security agency staff have not issued warnings on ISIS activists being real threats, nor have they alerted the police to such operations on the ground, police sources say

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Israeli Border Police secure the scene of an attack in Hadera, Israel, Sunday.
Israeli Border Police secure the scene of an attack in Hadera, Israel, Sunday.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

No warnings have been issued by the Shin Bet security service related to Islamic State activity in Israel over the last three years, a senior police official said on Monday, despite there being a few dozen supporters of the organization known to the security establishment.

This comes after two deadly terror attacks were carried out by supporters of the Islamic State in Israel within a week — one in Be'er Sheva and a second in Hadera.

“We're seeing a weakness at Shin Bet in terms of anything related to monitoring terrorist- or security-related activity against Israel,” a senior police source said, adding that this has remained the case even after Israel's war with Hamas last year, during which there was civil unrest and violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel.

Police suspect that several individuals who were previously convicted of involvement with the Islamic State may have managed to establish terror cells in order to carry out the attacks.

At the peak number of Islamic State incarcerations in Israel, there were 87 individuals in Israeli prisons convicted of membership in the terrorist organization or of acting on behalf of it. At present, that number is 19 total, some of whom are from the West Bank. The official added it is also possible a few hundred more support the Islamic State in a second-tier fashion.

Most of the convicted Islamic State operatives served relatively short stints in prison – between one and four years. Some were convicted of supporting the organization and others for attempting to join the ranks of Islamic State fighters in Syria or for actually doing so.

Police sources say that in practice, over the last three years, Shin Bet security agency staff have not issued warnings on Islamic State activists being real threats, nor have they alerted the police to such operations on the ground.

“Even when we were holding discussions to assess the situation, the representative from Shin Bet would be a junior official who didn’t add anything of substance,” the source said.

The source added that the Shin Bet hasn’t invested much more in its operations within the Israeli Arab community since the 2021 Gaza war. One official offered this example: If prior to the war there was one Shin Bet coordinator for several cities in a particular region of Israel, that number has only bumped up to three since the war.

“In the Israeli Arab sector, most of Shin Bet’s force is [engaged in] investigating and not intelligence,” a police source said.

One senior official at the Israel Police said the Shin Bet’s primary difficulty in monitoring Islamic State activity is that many of the suspects are Israeli citizens. The Shin Bet is barred from using against Israelis certain technologies and intelligence-gathering practices that are regularly used against Palestinians without Israeli citizenship, for whom there are fewer legal constraints in that regard.

The police expect increased tensions during Land Day, on March 30 – which commemorates the 1976 killing of six Israeli Arabs who were protesting land expropriations – and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in early April.

One senior police official added, however, that the police still do not see any organizational connection between the Be’er Sheva and Hadera attacks – that they seem to have been organized locally rather than militarily.

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