Israel said on Sunday it had cracked the first ISIS cell on its soil, made up of seven Arab citizens who would be prosecuted on charges of planning attacks in the Jewish state and communicating with the insurgent group in Syria.
The defendants, including a lawyer who was representing himself in court, denied the charges of belonging to an illegal group, aiding terrorism and contacting foreign agents, a justice ministry spokesman said after a gag order on the case was eased.
Though members of Israel’s 20 per cent Arab minority rarely turn to armed violence, many chafe at state authority and security officials worry about Islamist doctrines taking root.
Dozens of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join insurgent groups. Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency said on January 4 it had broken up a cell in the occupied West Bank linked to ISIS.
The seven Israeli Arab suspects, aged 22 to 40 and all from the northern Galilee region, were arrested in November and December and told investigators they had undergone radical Islamist studies and prepared weapons and funding for attacks, the Shin Bet said in a statement.
It said one of the defendants had tried to leave Israel in July in order to make his way to Syria but had been detained by authorities in Tel Aviv.