An Israeli Arab man was indicted after he made preparations to join the Islamic State terror group, the Shin Bet security agency said Sunday.
The man, identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Ahmed Azzam of the Arab town of Kafr Manda, was detained in a joint Shin Bet-Israel Police operation on June 6, the security agency said.
He was arrested “in the wake of information to the effect that he supports and identifies with Islamic State, that he is in contact with IS militants and supporters, and that he was making preparations to join the organization and the fighting,” according to an official statement.
Azzam allegedly has expressed support for IS ideology, was following its activities and propaganda online, and made “tangible preparations,” including establishing contact with IS operatives, to leave Israel in order to join the group’s fighting units. The statement did not specify where Azzam planned to meet up with the group, which has various affiliates and forces throughout the Middle East, from its rapidly shrinking base in Syria and Iraq to the Sinai, Libya and elsewhere.
Haifa district prosecutors filed an indictment against Azzam at the Haifa District Court on Sunday.
The Shin Bet said Sunday it views the phenomenon of Israelis found supporting IS “as a severe strategic threat,” and promised to “continue to monitor suspects and take the necessary enforcement measures in order to thwart the dissemination of IS ideology in Israel and prevent Israelis from joining its ranks as fighters.”
The Islamic State is in retreat in Iraq and Syria, pushed back by often-conflicted factions that include world powers like the US and Russia, regional actors like Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and local forces from opposing Sunni groups, Syrian government forces and Shiite militias like Hezbollah.
According to the Shin Bet, as IS has fallen back, its propaganda arms have continued to broadcast a “seemingly positive picture… to potential recruits.”
Islamic State does not have widespread support in Israel, and the Shin Bet estimates that 50 Arab citizens of Israel have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join the group in recent years. Over the past few years, several Arab Israelis have been jailed for efforts to join Islamic State.
An Israeli Arab man was convicted on June 13 of being a member of Islamic State.
The Haifa District Court found Wissam Zabidat, 42, from the northern Arab town of Sakhnin guilty of several charges, including membership in a terrorist organization, membership in an illegal group, illegal military training, and contact with a foreign agent.
Wissam and his 30-year-old wife had traveled to Iraq along with their three children and spent over a year with the jihadist group before eventually escaping and making their way back to Israel, the Shin Bet security service said in a statement in October, when charges were filed against the two.
The couple were tried separately, and in March wife Sabrin was sentenced to 50 months in prison.
AP contributed to this report.