Former Israeli Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy: There are signs of support for Islamic State in Israel
Efraim Halevy says Israel should be wary of strengthening of Islamic State terrorists in Jordan and Gaza, but biggest danger could potentially come from Israeli-Arabs volunteering for group.
Israel should be concerned with the possibility that its own citizens will potentially volunteer to join the Islamic State terrorist group, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy warned on Sunday.
Speaking during an interview with Army Radio, Halevy said Israeli-Arabs volunteering for the group pose a greater threat than the possibility of the organization threatening Israel’s borders.
“There are signs of sympathy for the Islamic State among Israeli citizens,” Halevy told Army Radio. “When a backdrop of sympathy exists, there are usually some who cross over to wider action.”
He said a similar process “occured in western Europe and could already be happening here.”
He said Israel must also keep an eye out for Islamic State activity in Jordan and Gaza, “despite the fact that in Gaza there is already an effective actor in the struggle against Islamic State – Hamas.”
Islamic State, fighting to redraw the map of the Middle East, has been coaching Egypt’s most dangerous militant group, complicating efforts to stabilize the biggest Arab nation.
Confirmation that Islamic State, currently the most successful of the region’s jihadi groups, is extending its influence to Egypt will sound alarm bells in Cairo, where the authorities are already facing a security challenge from home-grown militants.
A senior commander from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has killed hundreds of members of the Egyptian security forces over the past year, said Islamic State has provided instructions on how to operate more effectively.
“They teach us how to carry out operations. We communicate through the internet,” the commander, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.
“They don’t give us weapons or fighters. But they teach us how to create secret cells, consisting of five people. Only one person has contact with other cells.”
Militant groups and the Egyptian state are old foes. Some of al-Qaida’s most notorious commanders, including its current leader Ayman al-Zawahri, are Egyptian.
One Egyptian president after another has crushed militant groups but they have always resurfaced.
The success of Islamic State in seizing large parts of Syria and Iraq has raised concerns in Egypt, where authorities are battling Ansar as well as militants who have capitalized on the chaos in post-Gaddafi Libya to set up over the border.
Islamic State became the first jihadi group to defeat an Arab army in a major operation after steamrolling through northern Iraq in June almost unopposed by the Iraqi military.
*Reuters contributed to this report.