Israel charged seven Israeli Arabs with having ties to the Islamic State terrorist group, Reuters reported Sunday, citing state security officials in the country. The men constituted the first Islamic State cell detected in Israel, according to the state’s Shin Bet security agency.
The seven men were arrested in November and December and indicted Sunday in Haifa. Their charges include membership in an illegal organization, aiding terrorism and making efforts to contact a foreign agent – the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which has been waging a jihadist campaign throughout Iraq and Syria.
One of the seven men indicted on Sunday, 39-year-old Adnan Jamil Ala a-Din, had declared himself the “Islamic State chief of staff in Palestine,” according to local reports. Two others were brothers, and another was their cousin, according to court documents released Sunday. The men reportedly slaughtered animals at a farm in Galilee, in northern Israel, as preparation for killing “infidels” in Syria, Shin Bet said in a statement.
Officials said the suspects held several clandestine meetings with a sheikh connected to the Salafist jihadist movement. “The meetings with the sheikh, which focused on religious studies, featured preaching and persuasion to believe in the jihadist path,” the Shin Bet statement said, according to Haaretz.
Lawyers representing the seven men denied the charges, according to Reuters, saying the men were not a security threat to Israel and were being targeted for their religion. Following the indictments, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the charges demonstrated that “some Israeli Arabs belong in the Palestinian Authority, not Israel,” and that “some of them belong in Syria,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
Israeli forces also arrested an eighth Israeli Arab who was allegedly planning to fight in Syria on behalf of ISIS, according to multiple reports. Officials said they estimated around 30 known Israeli Arabs had traveled to Syria to fight with jihadist groups, including the Islamic State group.