Israeli officials see growing local threat from ISIS
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Israeli officials see growing local threat from ISIS

(JTA) — Israeli security officials are increasingly concerned about the threat of large-scale terror attacks by ISIS.

In an article Wednesday, Haaretz reported that Israel’s “defense establishment” believes a growing number of Arab-Israelis are joining the Islamic extremist group, and that ISIS branches on the Syrian border with the Golan Heights and in Egypt’s Sinai will recruit Arab-Israelis to commit terror attacks.

Also Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said ISIS operatives just north of the Israel-Syria border may be planning attacks on Israel, according to the Times of Israel. In particular, the IDF said it is concerned about the possibility that the Shuhda al-Yarmouk group of ISIS fighters there will send an explosives-packed vehicle over the border, fire anti-tank missiles and rockets, or plant explosive devices along the border fence. In response, Israel has stepped up security along the fence.

Over the weekend, the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic terrorist group, which has not previously targeted Israel, threatened attacks against “the Jews in Palestine” in an audio tape reportedly made by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

According to Haaretz, several Arab-Israelis have been found with ties to ISIS in the past year. A Shin Bet raid of a Hamas cell in eastern Jerusalem last week found that one of the participants, a Bedouin from the Negev town of Hura, also supports ISIS and is active in other radical Islamist organizations in his town. In the past year, the Israeli security service discovered that two other residents of the town have ties to ISIS.

In October and November, five Nazareth residents were arrested on suspicion of training to carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS, and in November the Shin Bet found an ISIS-affiliated cell in an Arab-Israeli town near Kfar Saba.

Last week, two residents of villages near Nazareth who went to Turkey in May to join ISIS in Syria, but returned home after changing their minds, were arrested for communicating with ISIS.

As most ISIS sympathizers in Israel have been caught in very early stages, the Shin Bet has not been able to obtain strong evidence to prosecute them, Haaretz said.