Two Israeli Arabs Charged With Trying to Join Rebels in Syria

One of the men told Shin Bet investigators they were checking out places to study in Turkey, but police evidence proved otherwise

FILE PHOTO: Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014.
\ STRINGER/ REUTERS

Two men from the central Israeli city of Jaffa were indicted on Thursday for attempting to join jihadi forces fighting in Syria.

Abdel Malik Asfour and Adam Abu Shahadeh were charged with attempting to leave Israel illegally to travel to rebel-held territory in Syria. The prosecution said the two had confessed to the crimes during the investigation.

Prosecutors from the Tel Aviv District of the State Prosecutor’s office asked the court to keep the two men in detention through the end of the legal proceedings against them.

One of them told Shin Bet security service investigators at the airport that they were flying to Turkey to check out places to study, but the police gathered evidence against the two, including their purchases of plane tickets, cold weather clothing and hiking boots in Istanbul. Asfour was arrested in September and Abu Shehadeh was arrested a week later.

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A broad gag order had been in effect for all aspects of the investigation, which was lifted on Thursday morning with the filing of the indictment.   

The indictment states that Asfour showed growing interest in the Islamic State group and the Syrian Al Nusra Front and their operations in recent years, while developing “ideological identification with the actions of terrorist organizations and their goals.” At the end of 2015, Asfour decided to leave for the region in Syria where the groups were in control and in 2016 he made contact with a person linked to the groups via Twitter, states the indictment. This man directed him to use the Telegram instant messaging app to confidentially make contact with a person in Syria who would aid him in entering the war-torn country.   

Asfour allegedly proposed to Abu Shehadeh to join him, and he agreed. They then planned to reach Syria via Turkey and join the forces of the Islamic State group, Al Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham fighting the Syrian regime. When they reached Istanbul, they waited for instructions from the person in Syria, who told them to wait for a day or two, but when he did not make contact with them – even though they sent him a number of messages – they realized he had broken off contact and they returned to Israel, states the indictment.