Cleared for release: A group of seven Israeli Arab citizens have been arrested in connection with formation of an ISIS terror cell. Details of the arrests, carried out in August, were under gag order until the suspects were indicted in Nazareth district court Thursday morning.
The names of two of the members of the cell remain under wraps, pending release by security officials.
The members of the group are all residents of the Lower Galilee and all but one were caught in a joint sting operation carried out by Israel Police together with the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). The seventh is already serving time.
They are accused of possessing weapons and undergoing training to attack Israeli police and IDF military targets.
One of the suspects has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison since 2009, serving a life sentence for involvement in a 2009 murder. He was involved in the organization and plotting of targets.
“Exposing the terror cell’s plans in advance and preventing murderous attacks by its members, points to the growing threat of the exodus of the members to jihad fighting areas throughout the world,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
The confessed to membership in the “Salfiyeh Jihad terrorist group, and said they were tasked with setting up a terror network in Israel for the Da’esh (ISIS) terror organization, with the stated intent to carry out attacks.
Mohammad Ihab Mahmad Sharif, 22; Mahmad Hamad MahMad Jiza’ala, 23; and Ahmad Omar Mahmad Mahajna, 19, all residents of the village of Yafiyeh, were taken into custody in August.
Two others, residents of Nazareth were also arrested in connection with the cell: Ahmad Ali Halil Ahmad, 26, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Yafim Weinstein in 2009, was arrested in his cell. His 55-year-old father, Ali Halil Salim Ahmad, 55 (Ahmad’s father), was arrested in their hometown of Nazareth. Both are accused of providing the weapons to the group of young men from Yafiyeh.
The suspects admitted under Shin Bet questioning to possession of weapons, and in November 2014 maintained contact via the Internet with those who are currently fighting in the ranks of ISIS in Syria, among other charges.
They also confessed to planning an attack on an IDF base near Migdal HaEmek, and to numerous surveillance operations in order to study the target in detail prior to an attack.
The cell gathered intelligence on another target – a police car that patrolled the town of Migdal HaEmek.
Targets for firebomb attacks included police stations in Migdal HaEmek and Nazareth.
In addition, the cell plotted attacks on a number of business establishments in Nazareth which sell alcohol. The attacks were aimed at damaging the businesses but without inflicting casualties, according to court papers. (It is forbidden to drink alcohol under Islamic law.)
Further details about the suspects and their planned operations remain under gag order at this time, according to court papers. The order has been extended to Oct. 18. The suspects are charged with possession of weapons, contact with a foreign agent, membership and involvement in an outlawed organization and other security offenses.
Hana Levi Julian