The Islamic State group vowed Monday to shift its focus from the remnants of its “caliphate” toward making Israel the main target of its attacks. It also called to sabotage a peace plan US President Donald Trump is due to unveil, according to a purported audio message from its spokesman.
Abu Hamza al-Quraishi said IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi encourages 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,” he said, apparently threatening attacks of unprecedented scope.
The spokesman said IS leader Quraishi was “determined, and has encouraged his mujahideen brothers in all provinces, and Muslims across the world,” to launch “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.
The IS spokesman made a direct reference to the “Trump plan,” which has already been rejected by the Palestinians, who ironically call it the “Deal of the Century” in reference to Trump’s purported name for it.
“To Muslims in Palestine and across the world, be the warhead in fighting Jews and foil the so-called Deal of the Century,” Abu Hamza al-Quraishi said.
He urged IS fighters, especially those in Syria and Sinai, to turn Jewish settlements into “a testing ground” for their weapons.
The message was not immediately authenticated but the recording was published via the group’s usual social media channels.
Trump was from Monday hosting both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the premier’s chief rival Benny Gantz in Washington ahead of unveiling his long-awaited peace plan.
The proposal, which Trump said he would release before his second meeting with Netanyahu on Tuesday, is expected to strongly favour Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
Some 600,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians. While Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital the Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War. It subsequently expanded Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem. It also captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981.
Leaks to Israeli media have suggested the Trump plan would endorse Israel annexing about one-third of the West Bank including all settlements and possibly the Jordan Valley area. It would also propose allowing Israel to hold on to all of East Jerusalem, including Muslim holy sites that Jordan currently administers.
Since coming to office, Trump has already gifted Netanyahu — who is running for reelection — a number of diplomatic benefits, many of them widely supported in Israel.
These include breaking with diplomatic consensus to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and ending US opposition to settlements.
Israeli officials have warned for years that Islamic State would turn its attention to Israel.
The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals fought for IS in Iraq and Syria. Most were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested.
However, there have been incidents of Palestinian terrorists who were galvanised by IS ideology.
In December 2019 two Palestinian men who were inspired by IS were indicted for planning a terror attack targeting Israeli revellers during the nation’s upcoming Independence Day in April.
Two Palestinians who killed four people and injured a dozen others in a 2016 shooting in Tel Aviv had been “inspired” by the Islamic State but were not formally involved with the organisation according to the Shin Bet.
The Islamic State organisation once administered a sprawling self-proclaimed “caliphate” straddling big parts of Syria and Iraq, where it minted a 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.
IS has remained a potent outfit in its Euphrates heartland and surrounding desert hideouts, however, and its franchises in Africa and Asia have also continued to expand their attacks.
The group has also carried out numerous attacks in Europe.
Islamic State has an offshoot based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that has been waging a bloody war with Egyptian forces for years and has also occasionally directed its aggression toward Israel, launching rockets at nearby Jewish communities and the southern city of Eilat.
In Gaza there are cells linked to Islamic State, as well as other Salafist groups, though they do not have much power.