Family of Israeli Arab 'Held' by ISIS: He Went to Syria, but He's No Mossad Spy

Islamic State magazine published an 'interview' with Muhammad Musallam, 19, from East Jerusalem claiming he is working for Israeli intelligence.

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Said Musallam in his East Jerusalem home, next to a photo of his son, Muhammad Sa'id Isma'il Musallam, February 12, 2015.
Said Musallam in his East Jerusalem home, next to a photo of his son, Muhammad Sa'id Isma'il Musallam, February 12, 2015. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The family of Muhammad Sa'id Isma'il Musallam, the 19-year-old from Jerusalem that ISIS claims to have detained for spying for the Mossad has confirmed that he travelled to join the Islamic State group three months ago.

In Issue No. 7 of the Islamic group's magazine, Dabiq, ISIS published what it called an "Interview with a Spy Working for the Israeli Mossad." According to the article, the subject is Musallam, who is cited as saying that he used to work as a firefighter.

Musallam lived with his family in East Jerusalem. He completed 12 years of schooling and did indeed work as a national service volunteer with the firefighting services. His father, Said Musallam, told Haaretz that his son told him three months ago that he was travelling to a course in the city of Rishon Letzion, and asked him for money.

"He left that morning and the next day I tried to call him and the telephone was turned off. I thought that maybe he was busy. After a week we got an email that he wanted to be a martyr and he was giving up everything in his life and his family.

"My children told me that he was in Syria and I believed it."

An Israeli security official said Musallam traveled to Turkey on October 24 in order to fight for Islamic State in Syria, Reuters reported.

After another week Muhammad made contact directly with his family. At first, he denied writing the original message, but said he joined ISIS and began to study religion and learn how to use weapons.

"One day, I saw his picture on the computer and he had a beard and long hair. I asked him how he was doing and he said he was fine."

"I told him if you want to come back, come back. After a while, he told me that he wanted to come back and asked if I was able to send him money. I sent him $200 to an Egyptian address that he gave me."

However last month, a man approached the family and told them that he saw their son in an ISIS prison in Syria. According to that person, their son was caught trying to leave ISIS and flee to Turkey. Since then, the family had not heard of their son's fate until Thursday's publication.

Muhammad Musallam after he joined ISIS. Courtesy photo.

"He wasn't religious, he was a regular kid, everyone loved him," his father said.

"He is not a spy, he went over on his own - they recruited him on the internet. I don't know what they said to him or how they got into his head, but he is not connected with the Mossad, the Shin Bet security services or anyone else."

The Islamic State's claims

According to the article in Dabiq, Musallam was recruited to Israeli intelligence by a Jewish neighbor who was a police officer. The article also claimed that Musallam said that when he took the job, he met with a man named Eli, an intelligence official responsible for checkpoints in the West Bank, who offered him at least 5,000 shekels ($1,250) per assignment.

Screenshot from Dabiq.

"The bigger the assignment and the more valuable the information, the more they would pay me and the more bonuses I would receive," Dabiq cited him as saying. Dabiq said he was trained to obtain information from others, survive an interrogation and use weapons, and he was expected to turn in weapons dealers and potential infiltrators into Israeli territory and report on any operations planned for Jerusalem.

He says the Mossad then sent him to Syria via Turkey to spy on Islamic State. He said the Mossad wanted the locations of weapons, missiles and bases and the names of Palestinians who traveled "to Islamic State from Palestine."

The magazine asked him how he was found out. According to the interview, he was behaving in a way "not typical of an [immigrant,] despite the training I had received from the Mossad." And he says he failed to follow certain orders, which prompted Islamic State to monitor him. Dabiq also claimed he was "moved from one prison to another" and confessed during interrogations.

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