Although the Islamic State has its eyes set on becoming a global caliphate that spreads into Europe, a journalist who spent 10 days with the terrorists says there's just one country the militants are afraid of — Israel.
German reporter Jürgen Todenhӧfer, a former member of the German parliament who spent 10 days last winter in IS-controlled Iraq and Syria interviewing a number of militants and made it out alive, told the British news site Jewish News that although IS militants are not afraid of the western military power of the United States or European countries, the group's fighters fear military capabilities of Israel.
"The only country ISIS fears is Israel," Todenhӧfer explained. "They told me they know the Israeli army is too strong for them."
Todenhӧfer added that IS militants seem pretty confident that they can handle any kind of offensive from U.S. and British ground forces. He also stated that part of IS' strategy is to lure U.S. and European militaries into Iraq and Syria so the group can abduct American and British soldiers.
"They think they can defeat U.S. and U.K. ground troops, who they say they have no experience in city guerrilla or terrorist strategies," the journalist stated. "But they know the Israelis are very tough as far as fighting against guerrillas and terrorists."
"They are not scared of the British and the Americans, they are scared of the Israelis and told me the Israeli army is the real danger," Todenhӧfer added. "'We can't defeat them with our current strategy. These people [the IDF] can fight a guerrilla war.'"
Todenhӧfer also explained why IS fighters are so confident they can "defeat" U.S. and other western forces who might try to overtake the group's Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.
"In Mosul there are 10,000 fighters living among 1.5 million people in 2,000 apartments, not in one place — so it would be difficult [for western soldiers] to fight them," Todenhӧfer said. "ISIS fighters are ready to die in a war against a western soldiers."
As IS has executed and enslaved thousands of Christians, Yazidis and other Muslims who do not believe in IS' strict brand of Sunni Islam, Todenhӧfer suggested that IS is "preparing the largest religious cleansing in history."
"They kill all the Shiite Muslims they can get their hands on," the journalist said. "I asked them if they were prepared to kill every Shiite Muslim, and they scoffed: '150 million or 500 million, we don't care, it's only a technical problem for us. We are ready to do that.'"
Todenhӧfer, who said he invited other journalists to come with him last year when he went behind IS lines, was adamant that he will never go back to IS controlled lands.
"The only reason why I was allowed to go wasn't because I had built up special relations with them," Todenhӧfer said. "I asked journalists to come with me but nobody was prepared to go there. But I will never go back."
As reported last year, during his time in Iraq and Syria Todenhӧfer interviewed a German IS fighter who claimed the terror group will one day conquer Europe.
"No, we will conquer Europe one day. It is not a question of if we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. But it is certain. ... For us, there is no such thing as borders. There are only front lines," Todenhӧfer quoted the militant as saying. "Our expansion will be perpetual. ... And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed."
Despite Todenhӧfer's claim, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio message on Saturday threatening Israel and the Jews by saying "we are getting closer to you day by day."
"God caused the Jews of the world to gather in Israel, and the war against them has become easy. It is the obligation of every Muslim to carry out Jihad," Baghdadi said, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post. "Jews, you will not enjoy in Palestine. God has gathered you in Palestine so that the Mujahadeen can reach you soon and you will hide by the rock and the tree. Palestine will be your graveyard."