Israel will strip 20 citizens who left to fight with the Islamic State group of their citizenship, a minister said Wednesday, with reports saying two of them are Jews who converted to Islam.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said an amendment to Israel’s nationality act, which went into force this month, allows those engaged in hostile activity to be stripped of their citizenship in absentia.
“I asked that the citizenship of 20 such Israelis be revoked,” he told Army Radio.
The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals had been fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria but now says that “about 20” remain active.
The remainder, it says, were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested.
Deri said that the amendment would prevent IS recruits from returning to the Jewish state, while also acting as a deterrent to young Israelis considering similar journeys.
Without the bill, he said, they would return to the country and eventually “carry out another car-ramming attack.”
He said each individual decision would receive due process.
Two of the 20 citizens on the list are Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union who had converted to Islam and joined the fighting in Syria, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
The list was made up mostly of Israeli Arabs, including two each from the towns of Fureidis, Kafr Kassem, Jaljoulya, Be’ena and East Jerusalem.
One person on the list died recently, while the document was being drawn up, the TV report said.
The Shin Bet has said that IS sympathizers among the Jewish state’s Arab minority pose a “serious security threat” for Israel.
In March, a Belarusian-Israeli man was arrested as he attempted to join the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria, after expressing support for the group over the past year and a half. The suspect, Valentin Vladmir Mazlevski, a 39-year-old father of five, moved to Israel from Belarus in 1996 at age 18 and converted to Islam four years later, while he was serving in the IDF, the Shin Bet said.
By the end of 2016, 83 people, most of them Arab Israelis, were behind bars in Israel as suspected IS sympathizers, up from just 12 a year earlier, according to a recent report in the Haaretz daily.
Some were arrested for planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight alongside the jihadists, or on their return to Israel.
Others were detained for contacts on the internet with IS militants abroad or for planning attacks at home.