Two Arab Israelis charged with plotting IS-inspired attack on Temple Mount

Two Arab Israelis charged with plotting IS-inspired attack on Temple Mount

Terror suspects also indicted for not reporting another cell’s plans to carry out a shooting attack on the Jerusalem holy site in September, which was nevertheless thwarted

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Border Police officers stand guard next to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, July 27, 2017. (AP /Mahmoud Illean)
Border Police officers stand guard next to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, July 27, 2017. (AP /Mahmoud Illean)

Two Arab Israeli men were indicted on Monday for planning to carry out an Islamic State-inspired suicide attack, with the target being Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holy site, a Tel Aviv synagogue or a central Israeli city with few Muslim residents.

The two suspects, who were arrested last month, were also charged with failing to report having knowledge of another group of Arab Israeli men who were also planning to carrying out a shooting attack on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September, similar to one conducted in July that killed two Israel Police officers.

That cell was arrested in September before it could carry out its Temple Mount attack.

Muhammad Jabarin, who is suspected of helping plan an Islamic State-inspired terror attack against a Tel Aviv synagogue, is indicted on February 26, 2018. (Shin Bet)

The suspects indicted on Monday were identified as Muhammad Jabarin, 20, whose brother was a member of the cell broken up in September, and a 16-year-old who cannot be named as he is a minor, the Shin Bet security service said. A third suspect, Imad Jabarin, 20, was also arrested by the Shin Bet in January, but was not charged on Monday.

The security service said that he too was involved in the planning of the thwarted attack.

All three of them are residents of the predominantly Arab town of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, the same town that the Temple Mount attackers in July came from.

On July 14, three Arab Israeli gunmen, all of whom were named Muhammad Jabarin from Umm al-Fahm, shot dead two Israel Police officers, Haiel Sitawe, 30, and Kamil Shnaan, 22, who were stationed at one of the entrances to the Temple Mount. Other police officers on the scene shot back at the terrorists, killing them.

The terror attack sparked a weeks-long crisis after Israel set up metal detectors at the entrance to the holy site in response to the terror attack, which Muslims saw as a violation of status quo agreements but Israel defended as a necessary safety measure.

Israeli police check the scene and surround a dead body (foreground) where Arab-Israeli attackers shot and killed two policemen on the Temple Mount on July 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

According to the indictment, Jabarin and his underaged accomplice began following the teachings of the Islamic State terrorist group in 2014, watching the organization’s videos and reading its content online. In late 2017, they allegedly swore allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Their support initially took the form of helping spread the ideology through social media. They later considered joining the group in Syria and spoke with an apparent member of the group there, but abandoned the idea after realizing they had no practical way to reach the country.

Finally, in December 2017, the two started discussing carrying out some form of suicide attack against the “infidels” in Israel, according to the indictment.

They first talked about conducting a ramming attack with a truck that Jabarin used for work. They then discussed a stabbing attack against Christian worshipers in Nazareth during the Christmas holiday.

Ultimately, however, they decided that the preferred target of their attack would be either the area outside the Temple Mount, a synagogue in Tel Aviv where Jabarin once worked or a central Israeli city where relatively few Muslims lived, according to the charge sheet.

The two started collecting money and learning to manufacture the explosives necessary in order to carry out the attack. At the time of his arrest, Jabarin had raised some NIS 14,250 ($4,000) for that purpose, though they had not acquired the weapons, according to the indictment.

Their plans were foiled when Jabarin was arrested on January 22 and the unidentified minor was picked up three days later.

“The terror attack was prevented thanks to accurate intelligence that allowed for the arrest of the cell members before they could succeed in acquiring weapons and fulfilling their plans,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

They were indicted in Haifa District Court on a number of charges related to their planning of a terror attack and support for the Islamic State.

Jabarin was charged with belonging to a terror group, illegal use of property for a terrorist purpose, contacting an enemy during wartime, trying to recruit others to a terrorist group, failing to prevent a terror attack, incitement to terrorism and destroying evidence.

The minor was charged with belonging to a terrorist group, trying to recruit others to a terrorist group and contacting an enemy during wartime.

Comparatively few Muslim Israelis have joined the terrorist organization — Israeli security forces estimate the number to be in the dozens — yet the Shin Bet said it sees the notion of Israeli citizens joining Islamic State as a “serious security threat.”

read more: