HAIFA, Israel – An ISIS cell that trained in the forests near Galilee while plotting to attack Israeli police and military facilities -- as well as liquor stores -- was shattered by the intelligence agents in what experts say is the first known case of the black-clad terrorist army operating within the Jewish state, sources told FoxNews.com Thursday.
Seven Israeli Arabs, including one already serving time in prison, were charged in Nazareth for the alleged roles in the plot, which was foiled by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, in a joint operation with the northern division of the Israeli police. The case, which broke last month but has only now been revealed, is viewed as significant in Israel because, although as many as 40 Israeli Muslims are believed to have joined ISIS in recent years, this is believed to be the first ISIS operation planned inside Israel itself. The Shin Bet published details of the case on its website, listing details of the plot as well as information gleaned from the suspects.
“During the interrogation by Shin Bet, the suspects admitted that during the last year they had been working to get weapons, train with them, and collect intelligence around an IDF base and police forces, and all of this in order to commit attacks under the flag of the Islamic State,” the report stated.
"They were close enough.”
- Mickey Rosenfeld, Israeli police inspector
Two of the suspects maintained Internet contact with friends who had gone to Syria in November and are now fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq, according to officials. During their interrogation, the two suspects said the ISIS operatives had convinced them to mount attacks, officials said. Training with a third man in forests close to their Galilee village of Yafia, they scouted police units in northern Israel, as well as a nearby army base. The suspects also revealed plans to attack liquor stores in Nazareth, resenting the consumption of alcohol which is forbidden under Islamic law.
The Shin Bet report also noted that critical information was recovered from one suspect's cellphone, including photos of ISIS combatants and weapons and a video demonstration of how to slit a throat. Two men who supplied them weapons were also among those charged. Another suspect charged in the case is a 26-year-old currently serving life in an Israeli prison for the murder of a taxi driver in 2009. He is accused of helping to coordinate the attacks by phone and through intermediaries.
In August 2014, FoxNews.com was among the first to report the presence of the ISIS flag in Israel. Nazareth was among the locations noted where the black and white flag had been seen. ISIS operatives are also known to be inside Gaza, where they have clashed with Hamas in recent months.
“This was a major investigation and the arrests were made several weeks ago in a joint undercover operation involving internal security and police operations,” Israeli Police Inspector Mickey Rosenfeld told FoxNews.com. “We know they had tracked police movements in the area and had also tracked IDF bases in the area, so we know they were planning an attack. We know that they were connected ideologically and were in contact through the Internet and that’s why the arrests were made when there was concrete evidence of them planning an attack.”
Asked just how close the cell was to carrying out the attack, Rosenfeld said, “They were close enough.”
“This is not the first [ISIS-related] case we have had,” he added. “There have been cases over the last couple of months of Israeli Arabs who have gone to and come back from Turkey, and our security services are constantly working in tracking individuals going to and coming back from Syria.”
The danger of those having visited or fought in Syria or Iraq returning to carry out terrorist attacks on home soil has for some time been highlighted as a significant threat in countries across the globe.
“The prior discovery of the terror preparations and the prevention of the murderous attacks that were planned by the group, points to the potential rising risk of the exit of such individuals to jihadi war zones around the world,” the Shin Bet report warned.
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website: www.paulalster.com