The Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency arrested two cousins from the Nazareth area on suspicion of being Islamic State operatives who plotted a terrorist attack in northern Israel.
The men were arrested on November 22, the Shin Bet said on Thursday, in a joint investigation with the Israel police’s Northern District. Security forces named the suspects as Muhammad Bader Hassan, 20, a resident of Reina, and Ahmed Sa’adiya, 23, of Umm el-Ghanam.
According to the investigation, the two headed out to Turkey in May to enter Syria and join Islamic State’s ranks. Their journey was preceded by communications between Sa’adiya and Islamic State operatives in Syria and Turkey, in which the Israeli Arab volunteer allegedly received directions and assistance in crossing into Syria.
After landing in Turkey, the two arrived at a Turkish border city and met with Islamic State border smugglers, the Shin Bet said. But while waiting to cross, the two met families of Syrian refugees who were fleeing Islamic State and heard horror stories about what Islamic State was doing. They also received urgent requests from their family members in Israel to return home.
They then decided not to enter Syria, according to the Shin Bet, and returned to Israel.
Yet that experience was not enough to discredit Islamic State in the eyes of the suspects, the intelligence agency said, adding that they continued being exposed to extremist Islamic State ideology on the Internet, and speaking with Islamic State supporters in Israel. “Hassan was in contact with an Islamic State operative from Iraq,” the Shin Bet said.
The two began planning a terrorist attack Israel, and chose Golani junction in the North as a possible target due to the many soldiers who travel through the area.
Sa’adiya sought to purchase weapons before the two were arrested.
The investigation “underlines the great risk posed by extremist ideology and easy access to illegal weapons,” the Shin Bet said, adding that the radicalization process was short.
On Thursday, northern state prosecutors charged the two at the Nazareth District Court with a host of security offenses.