The Haifa District Attorney’s Office on Sunday filed an indictment against seven Israeli Arabs, including a lawyer from Nazareth, for their alleged role in attempting to set up a branch of Islamic State in Israel.
The seven defendants allegedly were part of a plot to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel and target Druse Israelis, security personnel, and others, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said Sunday.
The defendants face charges of membership and activity in a banned organization (Islamic State was banned by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as of September), aiding a terrorist group, and attempted contact with a foreign agent, for their plot to set up a branch of Islamic State in Israel and eventually to fight in Syria.
The seven defendants were arrested in a joint Shin Bet-Israel Police operation in November and December, but the case was kept under a gag order until the indictment was filed Sunday.
The defendants were named as Adnan Aladin, 40, a lawyer in Nazareth; Hasam Marisat, 30, a former security prisoner from Deir Hanna; Karim Abu-Tzalah, 22; Alaa Abu-Tzalah, 27; Halad Abu Tzahalh, 30; Sarif Khaled Abu-Tzalah, 29; and Muhammad Abu Tazalah, 27. All seven are from Sakhnin. Muhammad was training to be a pharmacist at the time of his arrest, the Shin Bet said.
The Shin Bet said that all seven have confessed that, since June, they have worked together to form a “Salafi jihadist” group and pledged their allegiance to Islamic State.
The indictment stated that Karim Abu-Tzalah attempted to travel to Syria via Turkey on July 30 with NIS 40,000 to contribute to Islamic State’s goals and had even coordinated with an Islamic State agent to meet him in Syria. He was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport when he tried to leave the country despite an Interior Ministry order banning him from traveling abroad.
The Shin Bet said that the defendants met on a number of occasions with a well-known extremist Salafi preacher in northern Israel, who called on them to recruit more men to their cause.
The cell carried out secret meetings during which they discussed jihadist thinking, the fighting in Syria, and prepared themselves to fight with Islamic State in Syria, said the indictment.
The indictment noted that during the meetings, the defendants left their cellphones in their vehicles to avoid any possible wiretapping by the Shin Bet, who they suspected might be following them.
They also learned how to make firebombs and on July 25 bought animals to practice slaughtering them, in order to build up their nerve for “slaughtering infidels in Syria,” in the words of the indictment.
The central figure in the cell was Aladin, who the Shin Bet said referred to himself as the “commander of Islamic State in Palestine.”
During the cell’s meetings, Aladin allegedly incited the other members to take part in terrorist attacks against Jews and prepared them for their jihad ideologically and mentally, the Shin Bet said.
Aladin was suspended in July from his job with the Public Defender’s Office after he wrote a post on Facebook praising an Islamic hadith about killing Jews.
He told his interrogators that he worked to acquire firearms in order to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel against security forces and Druse, all on behalf of Islamic State, the Shin Bet said.
Kareem Abu-Tzalah was separately indicted last week for seeking to obtain weapons for use against Israeli security forces, a Justice Ministry statement indicated.
According to the Shin Bet, the Sakhnin residents were arrested for their part in trying to acquire firearms.
An eighth defendant, Omer Koush, was indicted separately in the Beersheba District Court by the Southern District Attorney’s Office.
Koush was indicted on December 18 and arraigned on December 29, but the existence of the indictment was cleared for publication only on Sunday along with the Haifa bust.
Koush is a resident of a Beduin village in the South who had recently finished medical studies in Jordan and had been working to recruit fighters for Islamic State, according to the Shin Bet.
The state requested to remand all the defendants until the end of proceedings against them.
The seven Haifa defendants are to be arraigned and have their final hearing on how long they will be detained on February 2. Koush’s next hearing is set for January 29.
Channel 2 on Sunday night aired footage from an interview with Aladin they broadcast in September, during which his face and identity were hidden. In the interview, Aladin can be seen saying that attacks on Israel should be expected, in that Israel “is part of the Muslim lands that were usurped.”
He compared the massacres attributed to Islamic State to what he said were atrocities committed by the United States and its allies in the Middle East and worldwide, and that “Islamic State will make sure justice is served” to people who murdered Muslims.