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Islamic State said to be recruiting Israeli Arab doctors

Jihadist terror group using social media to woo medical and pharmacy students who are studying in Jordan, report says

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Islamic State fighters near the border between Syria and Iraq (screen capture: YouTube/Vice News)
Islamic State fighters near the border between Syria and Iraq (screen capture: YouTube/Vice News)

The Islamic State group has been trying to recruit Israeli Arab doctors and medical students to help out in its field hospitals, which are suffering from a dearth of qualified personnel, Channel 2 reported on Wednesday.

Using social media, the jihadists have been targeting Israeli medical and pharmacy students who are studying in Jordan in an effort to recruit them before they return to Israel to focus on their specialties.

To convince the Israeli Arabs, many of whom come from communities in the north and south of the country, IS members would appeal to their Islamic duty to treat injured Muslims by quoting relevant verses from the Koran, the report said. They would then ask the students to fly to Turkey and from there make their way to the terror group’s bases in Iraq and Syria to apply their skills to wounded fighters.

An unnamed close family relative of one student doctor described how IS was attempting to sway the impressionable young students.

“They try to develop a personal connection with them, that they are obligated as Muslims to treat the organization’s wounded who are fighting against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s regime,” the source said. “They give them all kinds of verses from the Koran to drill into them the belief that they are doing the right thing and a great deed, and [say] that they are not required for fighting.”

IS has brutally carved out large swaths of Syria and Iraq for its self-declared Islamic caliphate and drawn widespread condemnation for its execution of captives, including some Western hostages.

While in some cases the families of students talk them out of answering the IS call for help, the report said, Israeli security services have also intercepted some would-be jihadist medics before they left the country and persuaded them to abandon their plans — or face prison sentences upon their return to Israel.

Othman Abdelkayan, an intern who worked at the Barzilai Hospital and was reportedly killed fighting for the Islamic State group (photo credit: Barzilai Medical Center)
Othman Abdelkayan, an intern who worked at the Barzilai Hospital and was reportedly killed fighting for the Islamic State group (photo credit: Barzilai Medical Center)

In October the family of Othman Abdelkayan, from the Bedouin Negev town of Hura, said he was killed in fighting in Syria.

Abdelkayan, an Israeli doctor, left the country in May to join IS in Syria. He was slated to do a residency program at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba in May.

Abdelkayan studied medicine in Jordan, and after he passed the certification test, he was granted a temporary license in Israel.

The Shin Bet internal security service and police believe that more than 30 Israeli Arabs have joined the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms IS, ISIS and ISIL. In October police confirmed that three Arab Israelis had joined the jihadist organization, which has taken control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

A bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and still making its way through parliament, seeks to crack down on Israeli citizens taking up arms with jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in neighboring Syria and will carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

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