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Two Israeli-Arabs arrested for plotting IS shooting attack on Temple Mount

Israeli security forces stand guard in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in the old city of Jerusalem on July 27, 2017
AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP)
Suspects planned attack at ultra-sensitive Jerusalem holy site in the name of Islamic State terrorist group

Israeli security services revealed Thursday that two Israeli-Arab citizens arrested earlier this month had planned to carry out a shooting attack at the flashpoint Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem in the name of the Islamic State terrorist group, similar to the deadly July 14 shooting attack that sparked mass unrest and clashes.

Prosecutors alleged that the pair, who were arrested on September 17, had tried unsuccessfully to travel to Syria to fight with IS and then decided to target fellow Israelis instead, inspired by a deadly gun and knife attack in July.

Said Jabarin, 26, from the mainly Arab northern town of Umm al-Fahm, was charged with attempting to aid an enemy, possession of firearms and using a weapon for terror.

A 16-year-old from the same town, who cannot be named because he is a minor, was charged with attempting to aid an enemy and contact with a foreign agent.

Prosecutors said that Jabarin had been questioned by Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency in January over his suspected support for IS and then given a formal warning in May.

According to an investigation by the Shin Bet, Jabarin and the minor had already acquired two pistols and ammunition which they intended to be used to carry out the attack.

A third suspect, Faras Salah Mahmoud Mahajneh, 24, also from Umm al-Fahm, was arrested for supporting the Islamic State and for weapons possession.

Mahajneh was not directly linked to the Temple Mount shooting plot. An improvised semi-automatic weapon known as the "Carl Gustav" or "Carlos" was seized from his home.

The Shin Bet said several other suspects were arrested in the Umm al-Fahm area over involvement in illegal weapons trafficking.

The Shin Bet said in a statement that their investigation found that "relatively shortly after the murderous attack in July 2017 on the Temple Mount, two residents of Umm al-Fahm planned a similar attack on the mountain complex."

According to the indictment, the three suspects had met and discussed the possibility of traveling to Syria to take up ranks with the Islamic State there, but later changed their minds and conspired to carry out a terror attack targeting "security personnel and non-Muslim civilians" in a small market outside the Temple Mount.

Israel Police

Their plan was to be killed while carrying out the attack "in order to become ‘martyrs,'" according to the indictment.

They were inspired by a July 14 attack by three Arab Israelis armed with automatic rifles and a knife who killed two police officers stationed near the compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

The Shin Bet said the attack was thwarted "thanks to precise ISA intelligence which enabled the timely arrest of the members of the cell."

The statement also expressed concern at the "severe security threat" posed by Israeli Arabs who support IS and are in contact with it. It said it estimated that around 50 Israeli Arabs had traveled to Iraq or Syria to fight with IS.

"The ISA will continue to take determined action and use the necessary enforcement measures to prevent the dissemination of the Islamic State ideology in Israel and to thwart the carrying out of any activity that harms the security of the state," it said.

Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)

Israeli police officers Haiel Stawi, 30, Kamil Shanan, 22, were killed in the July 14 attack carried out by three Arab-Israeli citizens of Umm al-Fahm, none of whom were previously known to security agencies.

The attack led Israel to install metal detectors at the entrance to the ultra-sensitive holy site revered by both Jews and Muslims. The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

The new security measures sparked weeks of deadly clashes and a retaliatory stabbing attack at the Halamish settlement in which Yosef Salomon, 70, Chaya Salomon, 46, and Elad Salomon, 36 -- a grandfather and his two adult children -- were killed.

Following intensive international diplomacy and warnings of the potential of wider unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors.

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