Five Israeli Arabs Jailed for Seeking to Join ISIS

Ringleader still on trial; defendants had practiced fighting by slaughtering sheep.

ISIS tanks photographed in Raqqa, Syria, in March.
AP

Five men from the north were sent to prison on Thursday for trying to join the Islamic State.

The five, from Sakhnin and Deir Hanna, were given prison sentences ranging from two and a half to six years. Another man, the primary defendant and the leader of the group, is still on trial.

The five were convicted as part of a plea bargain.

The defendants used to meet frequently in the Sakhnin area starting in early 2014 in order to discuss ISIS and its ideology, expressing support for radical Islam, the charge sheet said.

The group practiced fighting by slaughtering sheep in order to “strengthen their hearts,” they said, according to the indictment.

One of them, Karim Abu Salah, planned to fly to Turkey and then enter Syria in order to join ISIS. But he was detained by the Shin Bet at Ben-Gurion International Airport and blocked from leaving Israel. After this incident, Abu Salah continued to meet the group and discuss ISIS.

The indictment said Abu Salah decided to attack Druze security guards with firearms and asked a friend to help him buy a Kalashnikov submachine gun.

Haifa District Judge Yechiel Lifshitz wrote in his verdict that the seriousness of the defendants’ acts was indisputable.

“They voluntarily joined a murderous organization which upholds a Salafi-Jihadist ideology and stands for, even if not immediately, destroying Israel and every other state, Muslim and otherwise, that doesn’t adhere to its approach to Sharia law,” the judge said.

The judge noted in his verdict that the defendants had expressed regret and said they had been influenced by social networks and media reports. He added that they did not have criminal records.

Attorney Ahmed Masalha, who represented two of the defendants, said his clients’ activity posed no threat to Israel and that they had planned to go to Syria to fight against the Assad regime.

“Israeli courts tend to give youngsters who join ISIS harsher penalties, in order to paint themselves as part of the West that is fighting this organization,” he said.