Israeli Arab Woman Sentenced to 4 Years for Joining ISIS

Sabareen Zabidat, from Sakhnin in northern Israel, moved to Syria and then to Mosul in Iraq with her husband and three kids before fleeing back to Turkey.

Sabareen Zabidat in court for sentencing on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.

An Israeli Arab woman was sentenced Tuesday morning in a Haifa District Court to 50 months in prison after being convicted of joining ISIS along with her husband and three children, ages 3,6 and 8.

Sabareen Zabidat, 30, from Sakhnin in northern Israel, was found guilty of having contacts with a foreign agent, unlawfully leaving the country, membership in an illegal organization and a terrorist organization.

Zabidat and her husband were indicted last October. The indictment said that the family had moved to Mosul in Iraq and the husband had fought among the ranks of ISIS. The couple were arrested upon their return to Israel. 

Zabidat's husband has yet to be sentenced.

According to Police and Shin Bet investigators, the couple flew to Romania in June, 2015 in order to participate in a graduation ceremony for Sabareen's brother who had studied medicine. From there, Sabareen reached out to a contact affiliated with ISIS who met them in Turkey and brought them to Syria.

According to the indictment, the two expressed interest in joining ISIS before their travels and began following the organization on social media. In Romania, they left their cell phones so that they could not be tracked and didn't tell their families of their decision to join ISIS.

Sabareen convinced her husband Wissam to join ISIS and fight for the organization in Syria and Iraq. When they arrived in Syria, the two gave their Israeli passports over to the organization and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Afterward, the family moved to Mosul in Iraq.

Wissam was given a weapon and began fighting for the group and at some point was wounded during an assault on the town of al-Bourisha. He had been hit by a bullet in the leg and was admitted to a hospital in the town. After being wounded, he returned to live with his wife and children in Mosul.

Sabareen worked at a local hospital, managing security cameras and her three children went to school at local institutions. They were paid by ISIS members.

In July 2016, the two decided to return to Israel in wake of heavy airstrikes on Mosul and due to a lack of regular education for their children.

The indictment said that the family then crossed the border back into Syria and repeatedly tried to cross into Turkey secretly, leading their children through the hills often without food and water while using an anesthetic drug to keep their young daughter from crying and alerting the Turkish border guards who fired on them on multiple occasions.

After successfully entering Turkey, they were arrested and extradited to Israel. 

Sabareen's public defender said that the punishment was severe under the circumstances, saying that it was never claimed that her client posed a security threat to Israel. 

The defender did acknowledge however, that the woman had visited Syria and Iraq.