National Security

The Last ISIS Attack Was Unprecedented, But Only Because It Wasn’t Really ISIS

The Islamic State’s alleged attack in Israel would have been its first inside the country, but instead, it is unprecedented because it probably was not ISIS who did it.

Three Palestinian men stabbed Israeli police officer Hadas Malka, 23, to death in Jerusalem on Friday, wounding an additional three others. ISIS took credit for the attack hours later, praising the “soldiers of the caliphate.” But both Hamas, the political terrorist organization which runs the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and Israel security authorities noted the attackers were not ISIS members. If the Israelis and Palestinians are correct, it would be the first time ISIS has directly stolen credit for an attack from another group.

Hamas claimed two of the attackers belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a nationalist movement with Marxist leanings, while the third was a Hamas member. Israel police spokeswoman Luba Simri also confirmed the attack was perpetrated by a “local cell” with no ties to any terrorist organization.

Jihadi groups like al-Qaida and ISIS see Israel as a prime adversary. Attacks inside the country are useful for drumming up support within the Islamist world. Traditionally, Palestinian groups like Hamas have had the monopoly on violence against Israel, but as ISIS continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, its leaders may be looking to add a new target.

It would not be the first time ISIS has irked another jihadi group. Al-Qaida in Iraq, ISIS’s predecessor, was reprimanded several times by al-Qaida’s central leadership for its brazen and overly violent tactics. Hezbollah, a prominent Shiite terrorist organization, is a known ISIS adversary. Additionally, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as the Nusra Front, has been at odds with the terrorist group.

It is also not the first time ISIS has borrowed from Palestinian terror groups. Palestinian terrorists pioneered simple knife attacks and using vehicles to ram civilians well before ISIS called on their followers to do the same.

There is a possibility the Palestinian attackers had come across ISIS propaganda or participated in the group’s many online forums before the stabbing, but there is no evidence thus far showing that they had switched their loyalty. ISIS has already sought out new areas of operation, and it is easily conceivable that the group would want to target Israel. Yet, it appears its claim on the Jerusalem attack is only unprecedented because it was stolen.

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