Israel will strip 20 citizens who left to fight with the Islamic State (IS) group of their citizenship, a minister said Wednesday, with reports saying all but two are Arab.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said an amendment to Israel’s nationality act which went into force this month allows those engaged in hostile activity to be stripped of their citizenship in absentia.
“I asked that the citizenship of 20 such Israelis be revoked,” he told Israeli army radio.
The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals had been fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria but now says that “about 20” remain active.
The remainder, it says, were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested.
Deri said that the amendment would prevent IS recruits from returning to the Jewish state, while also acting as a deterrent to young Israelis considering similar journeys.
Without the bill, he said, they would return to the country and eventually “carry out another car ramming attack.”
He said each individual decision would receive due process.
Private Israeli TV Channel Two reported Tuesday that most of those to be stripped of their citizenship were Arabs — descendents of those who stayed after the creation of Israel in 1948.
However, it said, two were originally Jews — immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union who had converted to Islam and joined the fighting in Syria.
The Shin Bet has said that IS sympathisers among the Jewish state’s Arab minority pose a “serious security threat” for Israel.
By the end of 2016, 83 people, most of them Arab Israelis, were behind bars in Israel as suspected IS sympathisers, up from just 12 a year earlier, according a recent report in newspaper Haaretz.
Some were arrested for planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight alongside the jihadists, or on their return to Israel.
Others were detained for contacts on the internet with IS militants abroad or for planning attacks at home.