Paraglider (illustration)
Paraglider (illustration) Reuters

A 23-year-old Arab citizen of Israel on Saturday paraglided his way into Syria to apparently join Islamist terror groups - but according to his family, it was just an "accident."

The resident of Jaljuliya on the Golan Heights was spotted by the IDF as he paraglided into Syria, although the army was unable to stop him in time.

However, the man's family told Channel 10 on Monday that they intend to contact Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later in the day in a demand to have him returned from Syria.

According to his family, the man crossed the border due to a "flight accident." They denied reports that he had crossed the border to join Islamic State (ISIS), claiming that he's a "moderate man."

Their testimony jars with earlier statements by the man's uncle, who on Sunday told Haaretz that just roughly an hour after the paraglider was spotted by the IDF, the man's father received a call from Syria saying, "your son is fine. He's with us. Don't worry," before the call was cut off. The statement would seem to indicate a jihadist group had taken him in.

The uncle, who last saw the paraglider on Friday, told the paper he showed signs of radicalization of late, saying, "he started becoming more religious. He started praying every morning in the mosque."

Despite the family's new claims of an "accident," an IDF statement on Sunday revealed that "initial investigation suggests (the) Israeli-Arab crossed intentionally."

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he would seek to strip the man's Israeli citizenship, saying, "yesterday an Israeli citizen crossed our border in the Golan Heights into Syria to join the ranks of the enemy. We will act to nullify his citizenship. That is what is done in any such case. Whoever joins the ranks of the enemy to fight against Israel, will not be an Israeli citizen."

Interior Minister Silvan Shalom on Sunday acted on Netanyahu's words, asking Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to examine the possibility of revoking the man's citizenship.