Are there ISIS fighters from Israel?

"Islamic State" : The IS jihadists are also a threat to Israel

The words left nothing to be desired in terms of clarity. “The Jews thought that we had forgotten Palestine and that they could distract us. That is not the case, ”said Abu Bakr al Baghdadi at the end of December. And then the self-proclaimed caliph of the “Islamic State” (IS) announced - like other Arab despots before him - that Palestine would be “a grave” for Israelis. "Our battalions are getting closer every day."

It was the clearest call to date to carry out attacks in the Jewish state. And according to observers, this is an indication that IS has had to accept some setbacks in recent times. Because the Middle East conflict, like the hatred of Jews, is often used as a kind of stimulant if there are no success reports - in order to mobilize one's own followers and to strengthen the morale of the troops.

Such threats come as no surprise to security professionals. “The Jewish state is the ultimate enemy of the entire Islamic world. With Israel as a target, IS wants to increase its popularity, because so far it has lacked the support of the masses, ”says Aviv Oreg, founder of the investigative Israeli consultancy“ Ceifit ”, which deals with global jihad. “Just a year ago, Arab Israelis who went to war in Syria wanted to fight primarily against the Assad regime. In the meantime, however, the agenda has changed - it is now more about Israel and the Middle East conflict. They want to gather combat experience in order to then use them against Israel. "

Inside danger

The danger does not only come from outside, that is from Syria in the north and from Egyptian Sinai in the south-west, where, for example, the terrorist group “Supporters of Jerusalem” has joined IS. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv of the danger from within: "The 'Islamic State' is already here," he said. Studies, testimonies and analyzes have shown that support for IS is increasing among Arab Israelis and that some fanatics are also joining the terrorist organization. "Even in areas and groups that are considered secular, we see the influence of extremist ideas today."

According to media reports, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency arrested five suspected Arab Israelis only in early December. They are said to have tried to set up a terrorist cell in the country. The men from Nazareth had become increasingly radicalized, swore allegiance to IS and practiced handling live ammunition. "We have had cases in which Arab Israelis went to Syria, then contacted friends from their home village and tried to convince them to set up a terrorist cell," says Yoram Schweitzer, extremism expert at the INSS and advisor on counter-terrorism strategies in the premier's office Benjamin Netanyahu.

IS flag in Tel Aviv

It was initially suspected that the terrorist attack in a bar in Tel Aviv at the beginning of the year could also have an IS background. However, this has not been confirmed. On New Year's Day, Nashat Melhem shot two guests in a bar and shot a taxi driver on the run. In his backpack, which he had left behind in a shop shortly before the crime, was a Koran. At the same time as the search for the perpetrator, who was later found and shot by security forces, an IS flag was discovered on the balcony of an apartment in northern Tel Aviv. Neighbors called the police. But the residents had been abroad for a long time at that time.

The “Islamic State” is also apparently gaining a foothold in Israel's immediate neighborhood. Gaza has become an attractive place to recruit jihadists. The continuing hardship in the coastal strip, the hopelessness and dissatisfaction with the ruling Hamas are driving more and more sympathizers and fighters into the arms of IS. An opponent in your own sphere of influence, a competitor in the struggle for influence and support in the population? This is unacceptable to Hamas. She therefore tries by all means to make it clear who is in charge of Gaza.

Only: The IS supporters again leave no stone unturned to provoke Hamas. At least some of the recent rocket attacks on Israel are said to have been fired by the militant extremists. They apparently want to force the government in Jerusalem to respond with air strikes. This harbors the risk of a new escalation. But Hamas is currently not interested in another war against Israel. Such a thing would only increase people's suffering. And possibly fundamentally question Hamas' claim to power.

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