Tasnin al-Assad (Left) and Rahma Al-Assad, Israeli citizens suspected of collaborating with ISIS.
(photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)
Israel's Security Agency, the Shin Bet, revealed on Monday that it arrested two female citizens accused of collaborating with ISIS in order to carry out a deadly terror attack inside Israel.
According to a statement released by the agency, the two 19-year-old Israeli citizens, who live in the Beduin village of Lakia, are accused of planning a terror attack against Israeli Jews, including one during New Year’s celebration.
The investigation revealed that Rahma and Tasnin al-Assad pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and published articles praising the Islamic State group as well as content inciting terror attacks against Jews and Israelis. The two are suspected of being in contact with ISIS handlers abroad and made plans to leave the country and join the Sunni terror group.
An indictment was filed against them on Monday by the Southern District Attorney's Office in the Beersheba District Court. They were charged with several counts, including contact with a foreign agent, planning a deadly terror attack, providing information to the enemy, attempted murder, and for joining an illegal organization.
According to the charge sheet Tasnin made contact with an ISIS operative going under the name "Sheikh Kassem," through the messaging app Telegram, and expressed willingness to aid in a terror attack.
Kassem, reportedly instructed her to carry out surveillance of several possible targets in the southern city of Beersheba, including Ben Gurion University and the central bus station. After staking out both the locations, the two determined that security at the university was too strict to allow them to bring in a bomb in a suitcase and that there were too many Muslims who might get hurt in an explosion at the bus station.
Rahma al-Assad is also charged with trying to recruit an east Jerusalem man who planned on marrying Tasnin in order to carry out a terror attack during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
According to the indictment, 24 year-old Ahmad Abu Ramila was in contact with ISIS members on several Telegram groups and had planned to go join ISIS in Sinai with Tasnin after they were married. He had approached the Ministry of the Interior in order to get passports.
After the two women were arrested by authorities, Abu Ramila erased his conversations with them out of fear that he too would be arrested.
He was indicted on offenses including contact with a foreign agent, conspiracy to commit a crime (membership in a terror organization), and disruption of court proceedings and destroying evidence.
ISIS was declared an illegal organization in 2014 by then-defense minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, and Israel has so far largely avoided an attack by ISIS, though several Arab Israelis have been arrested on suspicion of links with ISIS and plans to carry out attacks inspired by the Sunni extremist group.
In October 2015, authorities broke up the first known case of an ISIS plot in Israel and indicted seven Israeli-Arabs on charges of belonging to an ISIS cell planning to attack military targets.
The first deadly attack believed to have been inspired by the jihadist group was in January 2016, when an Israeli-Arab went on a shooting spree in Tel Aviv, killing three people. Six months later, two Palestinians shot dead four Israeli’s at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market.
According to the Shin Bet, some 60 Israeli citizens have traveled to Syria or neighboring Iraq to fight with rebel groups including ISIS. Several are reported to have been killed, and fewer than a 10 are estimated to have returned to Israel, either by their own accord or after being caught by Turkish authorities while trying to cross the border and deported back to Israel.
In August, the Interior Ministry began the process of revoking the citizenship of 19 Israelis who went to fight for ISIS after a law proposed by Interior Minister Arye Deri went into effect allowing him to strip Israelis of their citizenship if they are members of foreign terror organizations.
The Shin Bet is reported to have provided the Ministry of Interior a list of 20 Israelis who had joined the jihadist group, including one who who died fighting for the group as the list was being compiled.