Israel Uncovers First Suspected ISIS Cell

Israeli security forces dismantled the first suspected Islamic State (ISIS) cell in the country in August, the country's domestic Shin Bet security agency said on Thursday, The Times of Israel reported.

Authorities arrested three suspects accused of planning to conduct attacks for the terror group on Israeli soil and another suspect was also charged with joining the cell. The four suspects were indicted at Nazareth District Court on Thursday for contact with a foreign agent, membership of an illegal organisation, activity in the organisation and weapons charges.

As well as the four suspects, three other people were charged with aiding the alleged ISIS cell.

Two of the suspects, Muhammad Sharif, 22, and Ahmed Mahajna, 19, both from the northern Israeli town of Yafia near the Arab-majority city of Nazareth, had contacted two Israeli-Arabs from the same town who had travelled to Iraq to fight for ISIS, the Shin Bet said, according to The Times of Israel.

The two Israeli-Arab ISIS militants in Syria, Muhammad Kilani and Muhammad Kananneh, told the men to establish the ISIS cell in Israel with the third suspect, 23-year-old Muhammad Jazalah. Israeli media reports said that the three men already had connections to radical Islamists before setting up the suspected ISIS cell.

All three of the suspects charged with plotting terror attacks admitted to security forces that they had planned to launch attacks on behalf of ISIS. They also confessed to purchasing weapons, training with them and gathering intelligence on military and police sites in the country.

The Shin Bet said that the cell had traveled to a nearby military base to gather information on military patrols and camera surveillance and had also planned to throw Molotov cocktails at police stations and vehicles in Nazareth.

Jazalah's father denied that his son was connected in any way to ISIS, according to The Jerusalem Post. "It's all lies," he said. "We live here in this country and respect all its people—Jews and Arabs. No one in my family has ever harmed anyone else or the security of the state."

A number of Israeli-Arabs have left Israel to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq and have been arrested for supporting ISIS but this is the first time an ISIS cell has been discovered in the country. In July, a 23-year-old Israeli-Arab resident of the Israeli town of Yafiah was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of entering Syria and joining ISIS.

Ron Gilran, vice-president at the Tel Aviv-based security consultancy The Levantine Group, says that there has been a certain rise in ISIS-related incidents reported in the country.

"Up until now, you saw other people rhetorically identifying with ISIS, or groups of people or individuals that have been revealed to have travelled to Turkey and then Syria," he said. "What's notable about this incident is that this is the first instance where a so-called cell had complete plans to carry out attacks in connection to ISIS [in Israel]."

"For now, there's no panic but there has been a slight uptick in the frequency that ISIS-related incidents or cases are being revealed [in Israel]," he adds.

An Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.