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June 5, 2015 12:31 pm

The Islamic State May Soon Be a Direct Threat to Israel

avatar by Alex Margolin

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ISIS, rebel fighters in Syria. Photo: Screenshot

ISIS fighters pose after seizing a border crossing. Photo: Screenshot.

In only four months, the Islamic State (IS) has captured territory larger than the country of Britain, a march unprecedented in modern history, according to journalist and documentary filmmaker Itai Anghel.

And IS fighters are closer to Israel than people think, he said. “I’m talking about the Peninsula of Sinai,” he said. “A large percentage of the Sinai calls itself IS. From the mainland of Egypt, they are afraid to go in.”

Anghel addressed the HonestReporting Mission on Tuesday to discuss how IS formed, and how it operates. He learned the lessons firsthand reporting across Iraq and Syria, where he interviewed captured IS fighters as well as Kurdish soldiers – the only group that’s turned back the IS advance to date.

During one of his forays into Syria last year, news broke that a colleague of his, James Foley, had been captured and beheaded by IS. At the time, Anghel was only a mile away. He later interviewed a captured IS fighter who said he intentionally used dull knives for the beheadings he carried out to increase the pain. Anghel said he was forced to pause in the interview for a few minutes as he thought about the tragedy of his friend Foley.

Anghel said IS has every intention of pushing well beyond Syria and into Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel – also known as The Levant – with the goal of establishing a Caliphate in the entire region. The red line for Israel, he said, is the fall of Jordan to IS. “Once Jordan becomes IS, it becomes Israel’s problem,” he said.

According to Anghel, the rise of IS can be traced to the American invasion of Iraq, and the American failure to establish a functional army to replace U.S. soldiers. He noted that the members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist forces were excluded from the new post-Saddam army, and their anger, along with rivalries between the remaining Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish forces has contributed to the Iraqi Army’s failure.

He showed a picture of IS forces executing a large number of Arabs in civilian clothes. He said the executed people were members of the Iraqi army who hoped to escape by shedding their uniforms and blending in among the locals.

“When they encountered IS, they ran away. They say, why should I as a Sunni fight when everyone is running away,” he said. “And the tragedy is, not only are they running away, but they are leaving behind all the sophisticated heavy weaponry the United States gave them in order to be the strongest in the region. All these weapons are falling into the hands of IS. And IS is very rich because its conquest campaign happened to take place, deliberately, in the region where you have the most oil in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, the Middle East is in an irreversible state of change. “Iraq doesn’t exist anymore, Syria doesn’t exist anymore. No one will be able to control those territories completely, even if (Syrian President Bashar) Assad manages to hold on,” he said.

Itai Anghel was one of the featured speakers for the HonestReporting Mission to Israel taking place from June 2 to June 8. Other speakers including Col. (Res) Miri Eisin speaking about the challenges facing Israel, Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov speaking about the new Knesset, and Neil Lazarus, who is an expert in advocacy training. In addition, the group will examine the issue of the Bedouin in the Negev and tour the Gush Etzion bloc.

Anghel’s talk took place at the studios of i24 News in Tel Aviv. The group received a tour of the state-of-the-art premises of the TV channel, which is working to change the perception of Israel in the world, with broadcasts in English, French, and Arabic.

This article was originally published by HonestReporting.

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