Ten Israeli Arabs have joined up with the Islamic State to fight in Iraq and Syria, according to reports based on unnamed Shin Bet sources.
According to Israel Hayom, the numbers remain low, but the national security agency is keeping close tabs on those suspected of joining the jihadists for fear they will return to carry out attacks in Israel.
A troubling spike of interest in jihadi groups has been detected, primarily in the al-Nusra Front, but more recently in the Islamic State as well, Israel Hayom reported.
The Mossad, Military Intelligence, and the police are joining the Shin Bet in an effort to track Arab Israelis leaving to fight in Syria. The development is especially worrying for Israel because its security forces expect citizens fighting in Syria to become further radicalized, and to undergo military training. In addition, jihadist groups have tried to glean information about Israel from the Israeli Arab recruits.
In May, the Shin Bet security service announced that an Arab citizen of Israel from the Negev town of Hura was arrested in late April for helping two family members leave Israel, enter Syria, and join the ranks of the Islamic State.
Idris Abu Alqayan, 23, was arrested on April 28 and charged on May 15 with conspiracy to commit a crime and aiding an unlawful exit from the country.
Abu Alqayan, a Salafist, helped plan and pay for his brother Othman’s and his cousin Shafiq’s trip through Turkey to Syria. With the help of social media, the Shin Bet said, he also assisted the two Israeli citizens to link up with like-minded Islamist fighters in Syria.
The war in Syria has claimed over 165,000 lives and forced millions of Syrians to flee to neighboring countries Jordan and Turkey.
Calling the phenomenon of Israeli citizens leaving to fight in Syria alongside the anti-Assad forces “familiar,” the Shin Bet said it was the first time citizens from the Negev had taken such actions.
Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.