ISIS calls for ‘new phase’ of attacks targeting Israel
BEIRUT - The Islamic State (ISIS) vowed to shift its focus from the remnants of its caliphate towards Israel, in its first audio statement since confirming the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In a message purportedly released by ISIS, the jihadist organisation called for sabotaging US President Donald Trump’s peace plan. The message said ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi encouraged the group’s fighters to launch “a new phase” and vowed major operations against Israel.
“The eyes of the soldiers of the caliphate, wherever they are, are still on Jerusalem,” the spokesman said in the 37-minute message, “and in the coming days, God willing, you will see what harms you and what will make you forget the horrors you have seen.”
ISIS once administered a sprawling self-proclaimed “caliphate” straddling large parts of Syria and Iraq, where it minted currency, levied taxes and ran school curricula. Under pressure from combined military operations by Syrian and Iraqi forces supported by their respective allies, the proto-state collapsed last year.
ISIS has remained present in its Euphrates heartland and surrounding desert hideouts, however, and its franchises in Africa and Asia have expanded their attacks. The group has a presence in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel.
The spokesman said Quraishi, who took command of ISIS after Baghdadi was killed last October, was “determined and has encouraged his mujahideen brothers in all provinces and Muslims across the world,” to begin “a new phase.”
That new focus “is fighting the Jews and reclaiming what they have stolen from the Muslims and this cannot be reclaimed except through fighting,” he said.
ISIS released its recording ahead of Trump hosting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Netanyahu’s electoral rival Benny Gantz in Washington and the unveiling of his “Deal of the Century” peace plan.
The ISIS spokesman made a direct reference to the Trump plan, saying Muslims across the world should “be the warhead in fighting Jews and foil the so-called Deal of the Century.
He urged ISIS fighters, especially those in Syria and Sinai, to turn Jewish settlements into “a testing ground” for their weapons. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981.
Some 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem among approximately 2.9 million Palestinians.
On its southern coast, Israel imposes a crippling blockade on the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a strip that is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas and shares a border with Egypt’s Sinai region.