Agents from Israel’s Shin Bet security service warned of the rising threat posed by Israeli Arabs signing up to aid terror groups during this week’s Hajj pilgrimage, in which 2 million Muslims will travel to Mecca where Iranian and Hezbollah operatives are actively recruiting followers, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Citing two former Shin Bet agents and Shin Bet operations reports, Channel 2 said that for Iran and Hezbollah, gaining informants and operatives with lawful Israeli passports boosts their ability to harm Israel within its borders.
“This is a fantastic place to recruit agents and terrorists,” oneâ€‹ former Shin Bet operative told Channel 2. “You have here Israeli citizens who are allowed to fly to a country which is defined as an enemy state.”
“He then disappears among the millions of believers in the area, and for Israelis, its obviously difficult to supervise it. Practically he has a reliable alibi as to why he flew there,” the operative said.
Once home in Israel, a second Shin Bet operative said, they are “commanded to perform tasks or to gather materials and information” for the recruiting group.
According to the Israel Security Agency website, Hezbollah has begun to focus more in recent years on recruiting Israeli Arabs, “using personal difficulties, or any weakness that can be utilized.”
In March, the Shin Bet arrested Amir Barakat, an Arab resident of Nablus, after he came back from a pilgrimage to Mecca. In Mecca, he met with Amir Dokan, one of 1,014 terrorists released in the prisoner exchange deal to free captive Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit in 2011.
Dokan told police he offered Barakat $6,000 to carry out a shooting attack or throw a grenade. The meeting was secret and Barakat was caught only after he returned to Israel and tried to obtain weapons. At the same time, Shin Bet arrested additional Dokan recruits after they tried to smuggle thousands of dollars and euros to finance terrorist operations.
“The Pilgrimage allows them to convey messages,” one Shin Bet operative said and “reasons to want to scare the West” through terrorism, he added.
“Most likely a lot of money is transferred there. Operating the business of terrorism is very expensive. You need to buy weapons, pay operatives, buy explosives, all very expensive things,” the Shin Bet operative said. “Iranians manage through those pilgrims to transfer the money to the West. In my opinion a significant portion (of the money) successfully enters.”