East Jerusalem mother of two joins Islamic State

Palestinian security forces arrest 15 for links to terror group; wanted Sinai Islamist leader said hiding in Gaza

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, shows fighters from the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) marching in Syria (photo credit: AP)
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, shows fighters from the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) marching in Syria (photo credit: AP)

Palestinian security forces have discovered that an Israeli Arab resident of East Jerusalem, a divorced mother of two, flew to Syria and joined the ranks of the Islamic State, senior Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

The Arab Israeli woman is currently in Raqqa, Syria, the city that is considered the terror group’s organizational hub in Iraq and Syria. Her children live in a village near Jerusalem.

The officials further said the PA has detained 15 Palestinians in the West Bank for links to the jihadist group, and said a senior IS-linked commander from the Sinai Peninsula, who is wanted by Egypt, is hiding out in the Gaza Strip.

The 15 suspects were arrested in recent months by the Palestinian security apparatus in the West Bank, the officials said. Several of them were held for identifying with the jihadist group ideologically, while others for concrete links to the Islamic State.

To date, the PA has arrested dozens of people on similar charges, but most have been released. Among others, a Palestinian woman holding citizenship of a Western country was suspected of having ties with IS. She was arrested, sentenced, and served time in prison before she was released.

The Palestinian officials said the Palestinian security forces maintain close coordination with the Israeli security forces on the subject of Islamic State in the West Bank, and both sides have been working to thwart the establishment of any cells of the extremist group in the region.

Israeli forces have arrested several citizens in past months for involvement with the Islamic State. A resident of Nazareth was indicted on Sunday for joining up with the terror group and taking part in fighting in Iraq. Last month, the Shin Bet arrested seven other Israeli citizens who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, which has been illegal for Israelis to do since September.

The Palestinian sources also said Tuesday that one of the most wanted men in Egypt, a leader of the Islamic State-affiliate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has been hiding out in Gaza. Islamist leader Shadi al-Menei escaped from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, and is in contact with senior Hamas officials there, including Iman Nofel, one of the commanders of Hamas’s armed wing.

The Sinai branch of the Islamic State last week targeted Egyptian security forces with rockets and a car bomb in North Sinai province in simultaneous attacks, killing at least 30 and prompting ongoing clashes between the army and Islamists.

AFP contributed to this report.

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