Shin Bet arrests would-be ISIS recruits from Israeli Arab town

Security agency says 6 suspects were accomplices of Nadal Salah, and helped him cross into Syria last month by way of paraglider.

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November 18, 2015 11:42
3 minute read.
ISIS Palmyra

ISIS militants blow up Roman-era temple of Baal Shamin in ancient city of Palmyra. (photo credit: ISLAMIC SOCIAL MEDIA)

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police have arrested six Israeli Arabs from the small town of Jaljulya they say conspired to travel to Syria in order to join the Islamic State.

The case was cleared for publication on Wednesday when the members of the cell were indicted on charges including contact with a foreign agent, conspiracy, and attempted illegal crossing to an enemy state.

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The investigation was launched following a highly publicized incident last month, when an Israeli Arab man, 23-year-old Jaljulya native Nidal Salah, paraglided into Syria from the Golan Heights to join Islamic State on October 24th. Reports that an Israeli had drifted over the border into Syria sent security forces scrambling across the Golan Heights in a race to find the man, before they determined that Salah had crossed over intentionally in order to join jihadi group in Syria.

The same night that Salah crossed into Syria, the Shjin Bet and police arrested two brothers from Jaljulya who they say helped Salah. Under questioning, Jihad Hagla, 26, and Ahab Hagla, 22, began giving up the names of accomplices and investigators realized they were dealing with a cell of IS supporters looking to make their way to Syria to join the jihadi group.

The Shin Bet said both brothers were known to the security services as being supporters of IS, and that Jihad Hagla had spent six months in Syria in 2013 with IS and other rebel groups. Hagla was arrested upon his return to Israel and served a year in prison before he was released in November 2014.

The Shin Bet said that it had determined that in the months before he glided into Syria, Salah and Jihad Hagla trained on the paraglider repeatedly, and that Hagla himself planned to leave by paraglider as well, because he feared his security record would prevent him from flying out of Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The accomplices named by Jihad and Ahab Hagla under questioning included four other residents of Jaljulya: Anas Nidal Yusef Hagla, 19, Muhammad Amin Uda, 28, Muhammad Zakagti, 22, and Adna Ismail Otman Aynash, 21.

For months the cell would meet at Jihad Hagla’s house in the village for religious studies and to view jihadi propaganda.

All the members of the cell had decided that they would join IS, the Shin Bet said. While Jihad Hagla and Salah would paraglide into Syria, the rest planned to fly to Turkey and then cross by land into Syria. Two members of the cell, Adnan Anash and Muhammad Zakegti, decided to abandon the plot because they feared their parents would find out and prevent them from leaving, the Shin Bet said.

Two members of the cell, Adnan Hagla and Muhammad Uda, both flew to Turkey in October and tried to link up with members of IS to take them into rebel- controlled areas of Syria, but the plan failed and they flew back to Israel.

Over the past few years the Shin Bet and the Israel Police have repeatedly announced the arrests of Arab Israelis who traveled to Syria by way of Turkey in order to join IS. In many cases the suspects only spent a few weeks at most in the war zone, fleeing back to Israel where they were immediately arrested upon arrival.

The Shin Bet has issued repeated warnings to Israeli Arabs planning such trips, and has said that the phenomenon of Arab Israelis traveling to combat arenas in Syria and Iraq is extremely dangerous, as volunteers undergo military training and receive exposure to radical jihadist ideology.


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