Israeli Army Seeks Tougher Sentence for Info-leaking Soldier

Military Prosecution is appealing 34-month jail term for soldier convicted of leaking classified intelligence – about the transfer of wounded Syrian Druze to Israeli hospitals.

An illustrative image of a handcuffed soldier.
Tal Cohen

The office of the Israel Defense Forces' chief military prosecutor is appealing the leniency of a sentence handed down to a soldier convicted of leaking classified intelligence to the enemy and of aiding the enemy.

Corporal Halal Halabi, of the Armored Corps, was sentenced to 34 months in military prison for disclosing classified materials concerning the transfer of wounded Syrian civilians to Israeli hospitals, while he was serving along the border between Israel and Syria.

“The military prosecution has appealed Corporal Halal Halabi’s sentence, asking that it be extended because of the gravity and number of his actions, and the identity of the person to whom he gave the information,” the prosecution stated Monday.

The parties had previously come close to a plea bargain but could not agree on the punishment. The prosecution insisted on four years’ hard time. The defense thought the nine months the former soldier had spent in military prison awaiting sentencing was enough. Ultimately, the military court sentenced Halabi to two years and 10 months, punishment which the prosecution appealed three weeks ago.

According to the charges, Halabi had told Sudqi Maqt, a Druze resident of the northern city of Majdal Shams – who had done time in an Israeli prison for security offenses in the past – about a plan to evacuate wounded Syria civilians on a particular day. Halabi disclosed how many civilians were involved and to which Israeli hospitals they would be taken. According to the military prosecution, Halabi wanted Maqt to set up a point from which to film the operations, and instructed him what to do if Israeli soldiers told him to pack up and move on.

Halabi claimed his actions were designed to help Druze civilians in Syria, and explained that he believes that certain elements with which the IDF maintains ties are hurting members of that community. The military tribunal accepted his position that his actions were intended to support Syrian Druze.

According to the indictment, on the night when the Syrian casualties were to be evacuated to Israel, Maqt and Halabi spoke 12 times. The soldier recommended that Maqt bring a camera to document the events and mentioned that some months before, an American team had also documented such activity. According to the charges, the two talked again the next day and the soldier gave Maqt more information, on which a gag order has been imposed.

During his interrogation, Halabi admitted that the information he delivered had been top secret and that he should not have handed it over.

An Israeli intelligence officer declared that the information Halabi handed over had the potential to cause real harm to the State of Israel’s security: The revelations could endanger human life and intelligence operations.

Halabi’s lawyers argued that the information had been publicized in the past, in the press, and that it was no revelation at all, despite the claims of the prosecution.

With his actions, the soldier violated the trust placed in him, the court wrote in its ruling. “Even if the defendant had not intended to damage national security, he surely understood that was a probable likelihood as a result of the information he transferred to Sudqi [Maqt]”.

Sudqi Maqt himself has been charged with espionage, even though the main claim against him is that the information he published on his Facebook page, entitled "We are all Halal," about the evacuation of the wounded persons could have reached hostile entities. There is no evidence, however, that this information did indeed reach hostile elements.