Israeli Man Tried to Join Syrian Jihadists, Tortured by Assad Forces

21-year-old Yusef Nasrallah was asked to provide information on Israeli military installations, Shin Bet security service says.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Soldiers from the Free Syrian Army hold up their rifles in a Damascus suburb, January 27, 2012.
Soldiers from the Free Syrian Army hold up their rifles in a Damascus suburb, January 27, 2012.Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

An Israeli Arab who went to Syria to fight alongside the rebels but was instead arrested and tortured by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime was indicted Monday for leaving the country illegally and giving information to the enemy through negligence.

Yusuf Nasrallah, 21, of Kalansua was arrested on his return to Israel three weeks ago.

“He was in hell and, from what he told me, he wasn’t far from a situation of certain death,” Nasrallah’s father, Yukub, said. “Every day they would take another body or two from the cell where he was held, and sometimes they would stand alongside the bodies all night.”

He added that the torture his son underwent left Yusuf on the brink of insanity.

The elder Nasrallah, who said his son went to Syria out of “emotional distress,” thanked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for using his ties with the Syrian regime to help secure Yusuf’s release.

According to the indictment, Yusuf Nasrallah hadn’t decided which rebel group he wanted to join in Syria – the Al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) or the more moderate Free Syrian Army. But he did intend to die as a martyr during the fighting, “due to his religious belief that such a ‘martyr’s’ death would lead him to paradise,” the indictment said.

Instead, Nasrallah was arrested by the Syrian security forces a few hours after crossing the border from Jordan to Syria last April. He was questioned about Israel at length and tortured to make him talk, the indictment said, and under this pressure, he gave the Syrians information about the location of an army base on the Coastal Highway, the manner in which Palestinians enter Israel from the West Bank, and how he himself entered Syria.

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