The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) along with the police announced on Monday the recent arrest of an Israeli Arab citizen on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Israel as well as working with Islamic State.
According to the Shin Bet, 35-year-old Anes Haj Yahia, a resident of the central Israeli Arab village of Taiba, was arrested on January 29 in a joint operation by the Shin Bet and police after they received intelligence that he was planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.
A statement released by the Shin Bet said that Haj Yahia planned to set up a terrorist cell to carry out attacks in Israel, and even tried to recruit others. According to the Shin Bet, ISIS members asked Haj Yahia to execute a terrorist attack on a bus full of soldiers in Tel Aviv, but the plan was never carried out.
During the investigation, Haj Yahia was found to be a member of several online forums on Telegram (an encrypted smartphone application used by ISIS), where he distributed information about the production and assembly of explosive belts, as well as how to incorporate hazardous substances such as sarin gas into the devices.
According to the indictment filed on Monday by the central district attorney, Haj Yahia is reported to have sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed “caliph” or leader of the jihadist group, on Telegram, and spoke several times with a number of ISIS members, including one living in the Gaza Strip.
An ISIS member suggested to Haj Yahia that he plant a bomb on a bus filled with soldiers on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, and instructed him on bomb making as well as where to purchase materials.
Haj Yahia is also suspected of having considered joining ISIS in Syria.
During his arrest, images of military material and equipment as well as a “detailed guide of the jihadist fighter,” a manual used by terrorists affiliated with Islamic State, were seized by the Shin Bet and police. Haj Yahia was also found to be in possession of dangerous substances and information for assembling explosives.
The Shin Bet sees support for Islamic State as a “serious security threat to Israel and therefore uses every means at its disposal to prevent threats and bring those involved in this activity to justice.”
Israel has so far largely avoided an attack by ISIS, though several Israeli Arabs have been arrested on suspicion of links with the terrorist group as well as plans to carry out attacks inspired by the Sunni extremist group.
Security officials have said two Palestinians who shot dead four Israelis at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market last June and the Israeli Arab who killed three people in a January 2016 shooting spree in Tel Aviv, had all been inspired by ISIS.
In September, five Israeli Arabs were jailed for seeking to join ISIS in Syria.
According to the Shin Bet, around 50 Israeli citizens have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with rebel groups including Islamic State. Several are reported to have been killed and less than 10 are estimated to have returned to Israel, either by their own accord or when caught by Turkish authorities while trying to cross the border, after which they were deported back to Israel.
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