An Israeli Arab and a Palestinian from East Jerusalem were indicted on Thursday after allegedly trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria in two .
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Hamis Adnan Hamis Salame, a 21-year-old engineering student from Ramleh, was accused of contacting a foreign agent and attempting to leave the country illegally. Feras Sheritach, 18, a resident of the village of Akev in East Jerusalem, who has been living in the U.S. in recent years, was accused of trying to join an outlawed organization.
According to the Shin Bet security service, Salame admitted to the charges in his interrogation, saying that he contacted an ISIS operative via Twitter after he was influenced by the group's online videos.
The operative, who told Salame his name was Haji Bachar Alzarawi and that he was stationed in Syria, gave him several instructions and tested him on his knowledge of the group's activities.
Salame then traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, and flew from there to the city of Adana close to the Syrian border, the Shin Bet said. Salame notified his ISIS contact upon his arrival, and was told that he will be picked up from his hotel the next day.
However, he was nabbed by the Turkish police in his hotel, and after several days under arrest he was deported back to Israel, where he was arrested in Ben Gurion International Airport.
Sheritach allegedly decided together with two other relatives to join the group. The three traveled to Turkey in order to cross the border to Syria from there. But he was refused entry to the country when he landed in May because his passport was out of date. He traveled to Israel to renew his passport, but maintained contact with his two relatives who arrived in Syria.
Attorney Shira Natan from the Jerusalem Prosecutor's Office, who filed the indictment against Sheritach, asked for him to be arrested pending the completion of legal proceedings. The district judge remanded Sheritach until another decision is made. A court session on his case will be held next week.
"The phenomenon of Israeli Arabs leaving for Syria is a very dangerous one, since these arenas are rife with activities by elements hostile to the State of Israel, specifically global jihad elements," a Shin Bet statement said.
"Those Israeli Arabs who travel to these arenas undergo military training, are exposed to radical jihadi ideology, and there's concern that they will be exploited by terrorist elements in the country both to conduct military activity against the State of Israel and as a source to gain intelligence about targets inside Israel," the statement said.
Salame's father Adnan told Haaretz the charges against his son are overblown, as it was Hamis who contacted his family in Israel after he arrived in Turkey, asking them to help him come back home. According to the father, he went to Turkey and brought back his son.
Adnan said his son had no intention to harm the state's security, and that he hoped the issue will be clarified in court. Adnan said his son grew up in a tolerant environment and went to mixed Jewish-Arab schools, and added that he may have been influenced by friends, atmosphere, or media reports about ISIS, or possibly he was stressed by his course work and wanted to escape.
In early July, a 23-year-old Israeli Arab was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 10,000 shekels (about $2,700) after being convicted of entering Syria and joining ISIS.
Hamzah Magamseh admitted under questioning by the Shin Bet security service that he left Israel last October for Turkey with three friends, with plans to join ISIS and then entered Syria with two of the three. They were received by ISIS, given training, including weapons and fitness training. They were also said to have met another young Israeli from Nazareth at their training camp. After ten days there, Magamseh decided to return to Israel alone. He was arrested at Ben-Gurion International Airport upon his arrival.
In late 2014 seven Israeli Arabs from the Galilee were arrested on suspicion of attempting to establish cells for the Islamic State (ISIS) in Israel. According to Shin Bet officials, one of the suspects tried to purchase weapons for use in a terror attack against security personnel and members of the Druze community in the name of ISIS.
The members of the alleged cell were indicted on charges including membership and activity in an illegal organization, supporting a terrorist group and an attempt to make contact with a foreign agent.