Arab-Israeli Indicted for Joining Syrian Jihadis

Israeli security services growing increasingly concerned over Arab-Israelis joining the Syrian rebellion, fearing Al Qaeda influence.

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Ari Soffer,

Syrian Rebel fighters, 19th June
Syrian Rebel fighters, 19th June

An Arab Israeli student has been indicted for making contact with an enemy agent after he went to Syria to join rebels there, the Shin Bet (GSS) domestic security agency said Wednesday.    

Abdel Qader Altallah, a pharmacy student from Taibe village in Galilee who studies in Jordan, was arrested in a joint Shin Bet-police operation on July 14.    

The 26-year-old was also charged at Lod District Court, in an indictment earlier this month, on charges of travelling overseas illegally and infiltration.    

Israel is still technically at war with Syria and it is illegal for its citizens to go there.    

"Over the course of his studies, Altallah met Iraqi and Palestinian students who support the Salafist-Jihadist stream, which is the ideological platform for Al-Qaeda, and under their influence took up the Salafist ideology and became more religiously observant," Shin Bet said.    

"Altallah admitted he went to Syria to join the Jihad against the Syrian army and he contacted a representative of (Al-Qaeda affiliate) Jabhat Al-Nusrah and was recruited to its ranks," the statement read.    

Shin Bet said it considers Arab Israelis going to Syria as a "very dangerous phenomenon."    

"Alongside the military training they undergo there, Arab Israelis going to Syria are exposed to extreme anti-Israeli ideology and there is a fear they will be exploited by terrorists there, both as a source of information about targets in Israel, as well as for carrying out military operations against Israel."    

Last month, the same court sentenced an Arab Israeli to 30 months in prison as part of a plea bargain in which Hikmat Massarwa, also from Taibe, admitted to contacts with an enemy agent, illegally leaving the country and infiltration.    

Israel shares an 80-kilometre (50-mile) frontier line with Syria, which cuts across the Golan Heights plateau. Fighting from the 29-month-old civil war occasionally spills over onto the Israeli-controlled sector, which was liberated by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War.    

Israel's defense establishment is closely monitoring the ceasefire line out of concern that jihadist elements among the rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad could attack the Jewish state.