Israel is not significantly threatened by Islamic State terrorists, despite sharing more than one border with areas where the group is powerful and active, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday.
While Israel is surrounded by the group and its affiliates, IS is avoiding a direct clash with Israel, Ya’alon said in an Israel Radio interview Monday morning.
The comments came after an Islamic State terror assault in Paris last Friday that killed 129 and wounded over 300, leading to a new global focus on the threat posed by the jihadist group and its growing number of affiliates around the world.
Ya’alon said the terror group had no meaningful presence in Israel or the West Bank, and fighters in areas bordering Israel were not especially concerned with the Jewish state.
“Daesh [an Arabic acronym for IS] exists in Syria. We are following its presence there. They have their Sinai Province, as they call it, on the Egyptian border. There are a few IS supporters in Gaza, which Hamas is battling there; that’s an interesting phenomenon.”
Yet despite this presence, “Daesh hasn’t opened a front against us — because they would simply get hurt,” Ya’alon said.
He said efforts at launching rockets at Israel from Egypt have mostly faded.
“From Sinai there were a handful of attempted attacks. Lately that hasn’t happened. The Egyptians are battling them there with great determination. There is occasionally a rocket shot from Gaza by Daesh, but it’s actually aimed at [challenging] Hamas,” he said, referring to Salafi groups in the Palestinian enclave that associate with the Islamic State group.
IS is also present in the West Bank and among Israeli Arabs, Ya’alon said, but the numbers are negligible.
“In the West Bank there are a few cells. We took out an IS cell there a while ago. A few dozen Israeli Arabs went to fight with them [in Syria]. But overall, internally, including among Israeli Arabs and in the West Bank, this is under control,” he said.
Israeli police in recent years have arrested a number of citizens accused of joining the terror group, or traveling to Syria to fight.
Last month, the terror group released a video with a Hebrew-speaking jihadi threatening to kill Jews in Israel.
“The real war has not even begun and everything you have experienced so far has been child’s play — [it is] nothing compared to what will happen to you soon enough, inshallah [God willing],” the man warns in the video. “We promise you that soon, not one Jew will be left [alive] in Jerusalem or across Israel and we will continue until we eradicate this disease from the world.”
Ya’alon said Iran’s presence in the region was more worrying than the Islamic State group.
“Iran’s presence around us worries me, the fact that what is happening in Syria is empowering Iran. And over the past year we’ve worked to prevent Iran opening a front on the Golan,” he said.