Israeli Officials: Attack by Islamic State ‘A Matter of Time’

Marwan Khaledi, 20, seen at the courtroom of the Nazareth District Court on October 21, 2015. Tthe court sentenced Marwan Khaledi for 3.5 years in prison after he was convicted of fighting with Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq in 2014. Photo by Basel Awidat/Flash90
Marwan Khaledi, 20, seen at the courtroom of the Nazareth District Court on October 21. The court sentenced Marwan Khaledi for three and a half  years in prison after he was convicted of fighting with Islamic State in Iraq in 2014. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Israeli security officials believe that an attack by Islamic State terrorists on the country is “just a matter of time,” officials said Monday. IDF officials discussing the matter said in media reports that the defense establishment was preparing to meet the threat.

In recent months, defense officials said, IS has released numerous videos and messages on social media indicating that such attacks are in the works. The messages contain threats of attacks on Israel, and others directly appeal to Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to carry out terror attacks on behalf of the Islamist terror group.

One problem in fighting IS, however, is the amorphous nature of the organization, officials said. “There are IS centers of operation in Sinai and Syria, and it’s likely that attacks could emerge from there, but those centers are constantly moving around, so it would be difficult to pin down a specific location to retaliate against in the event of such an attack,” one official was quoted on Army Radio as saying. “It’s not like with Hamas and Hezbollah, where their locations and headquarters are known quantities.”

Also of great concern to the security establishment is the apparent attraction of IS for some Israeli Arabs, an issue that was highlighted last month when police and the Shabak special security service arrested six residents of the Arab town of Jaljulye, located in central Israel, after they had planned to go to Syria and from there join the ranks of IS. The six are being held on charges of supporting a terror group, incitement, conspiracy to commit terror acts, and other related charges.

The plot was revealed after Israeli officials arrested an Israeli Arab who was apparently also part of the gang, when he tried to fly a glider into Syria three weeks ago. The Arab launched his glider from a site in the Golan Heights used by sports enthusiasts for paragliding, and succeeded in crossing over into Syria.

In the wake of that incident on October 24, intelligence officials began investigating the identity of the Arab, who turned out to be 23-year-old Nadal Salah of Jaljulye. Further investigation revealed that he was part of a group that had been in touch with IS and had been planning to cross the border and fight with the terror group.

Israeli officials said that about 40 Israeli Arabs have gone to Syria using different methods to fight with one of the rebel groups there, or with IS. Most of them have been killed, based on information Israeli intelligence has come up with, the officials said. However, security officials believe that there are hundreds of potential IS candidates among Israeli Arabs.