Israeli police said this week that six Palestinian residents of the Shufat refugee camp and the neighboring village of Anata in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem have been indicted for being involved with the Islamic State group (ISIS) and planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel and Jerusalem, following weeks of violent detention raids into the camp, according to Palestinian and Israeli media.
According to a statement from Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri, which came after the lifting of an Israel-issued gag order on the case, the Jerusalem District Prosecution filed the indictments after a month-and-a-half-long investigation by police and Israel’s internal security agency the Shin Bet.
Al-Samri did not specify in her statement when the suspects were detained, though Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the arrests were made some 10 days ago.
The charges against them reportedly included attempting to aid an enemy during war, membership in an illegal organization, membership in a terror organization, and aiding a terror group.
The six Palestinians, al-Samri said, were involved in an “terrorist cell” affiliated with ISIS aiming to plan attacks inside Israel on behalf of the group, with a focus on Western Jerusalem.
The cell allegedly consisted of two levels and was operated under a leader who provided the “religious background” for the cell and issued teachings that included ISIS’ ideology and agenda, according to al-Samri. Haaretz identified the mastermind as 29-year-old Ahmad Shweiki, who set up the network in 2015, according to the indictment.
According to Haaretz, the men also stand accused of attempting to reach Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula via Israel, and Syria via Jordan and Turkey to join forces with ISIS fighters there. They however reportedly failed to make it past the borders.
Haaretz listed a number of the attacks allegedly planned by the cell, which included as targets a beach in Tel Aviv, Teddy Stadium in southwest Jerusalem, and government buildings. They had also reportedly saved 1,000 shekels ($266) to finance the alleged attacks.
After one of the suspects was arrested, two others reportedly planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier in order to pressure Israel to release the one detained.
News of the charges come after Israeli forces violently raided Palestinian communities overnight in the Jerusalem area, particularly in Shufat refugee camp, in recent weeks.
The Jerusalem-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center said on Wednesday — the seventh consecutive day the refugee camp was raided — that Israeli forces had detained more than 40 Palestinians from the Shufat refugee camp since the beginning of September.
Violent clashes have erupted as a result of the raids, with Israeli soldiers indiscriminately firing live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters at local youth protesting the raids.
On Sept. 5, a camp resident was shot dead and another was seriously injured while they were driving home near clashes following a raid into the camp.
Witnesses said on Wednesday that soldiers have deliberately provoked Palestinian youths who were trying to go home or leave for work, stopping and searching them, forcing them to lift up their shirts at gunpoint, while a number of Shufat residents — including minors — have been assaulted by Israeli forces during the raids.
Locals had told Ma’an that the raids were unjustified and were merely an attempt by Israeli forces to frighten and provoke residents, noting that Israeli forces were smashing through doors and destroying furniture in homes during the hours-long raids.
Israeli forces carry out raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis, commonly detaining Palestinians without evidence of any wrongdoing, which has intensified since a wave of unrest began last year.
The unrest has largely been characterized by a number of small-scale attempted, alleged, and actual attacks by Palestinian individuals against mainly Israeli military targets.