Hadera Shooter Tried to Join ISIS in Syria, Served Time in Israeli Prison

Ibrahim Agbarieh was arrested by Turkish officials before boarding a bus to Syria, though he served a relatively light sentence once extradited back to Israel

Ibrahim Agbarieh in court in 2016.
Ibrahim Agbarieh in court in 2016.

One of the assailants who carried out a shooting that killed two people in the central Israeli city of Hadera on Sunday was previously convicted in 2016 for attempting to enter Syria and fight for the Islamic State.

Ibrahim Agbarieh, 29, from the town of Umm al-Fahm was arrested by Turkish police in 2016 as he was about to board a bus headed for the Syrian border and was later extradited back to Israel.

There, he was charged with illegally exiting the country and for attempting to join a terror group.

The prosecution demanded Agbarieh serve between 20 and 36 months in prison, but the judge decided on a lighter sentence. "We must take into account the suspect's confession, his young age, his clean record, his remorse, the positive review given in his case and the fact that he comes from a normative family," Judge Ehud Kaplan wrote in his decision. Agbarieh served a year and a half instead.

According to the indictment, he went to Turkey with $2,300 in his possession and traveled to the city of Gaziantep, which is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Syrian border. Information provided to Turkey by Israeli authorities led to the arrest, and Agbarieh was later tried on charges that included attempting to join a terrorist organization.

Scene fo the attack on Sunday. Credit: Rami Shllush

According to sources who were involved in the investigation at the time, Agbarieh expressed full support for the Islamic State’s ideology, including its practice of execution by beheading, and for burning a Jordanian pilot alive in 2015. Agbarieh had also tried to recruit others to the ranks of the Islamic State.

His indictment, which was filed in Hadera Magistrate’s Court, alleged that he began watching videos “that included content linked to the Islamic State and saved some of them on his computer.” He was accused of planning on taking a camera-equipped drone to Syria to assist the Islamic State in combat. He began to examine ways to enter Syria via the Turkish border in May 2016.

At a hearing requesting to have him remain in custody until the end of the legal proceedings against him, the court found that he posed the highest level of risk in what the court described as his “deep identification not only with the Islamic State and Sharia [Islamic law] but also with the Islamic State’s ruthless activity.”

In the course of his trial, Agbarieh claimed that he should be released from custody in part because he had no prior criminal record and that his brother was an Israeli policeman. His brother is currently an investigator at a police station in the Sharon region north of Tel Aviv.

His brother testified during the trial, saying that Ibrahim had been "connected to computers" in recent times, and that "We discovered, to our surprise, that Ibrahim left a note and that he left the country, and just as my job requires of me, we reported it to the officials who deal with that, and with their help he is here. We first and foremost support him. It was hard for us that he left the country, it was almost like mourning," he said. "We will support him until he goes back to normal, will work and raise a family."

The brother added that Ibrahim was convinced that "he wants to join the police and wants to join the special forces, and because his Hebrew is at a low level, he wants to start a Hebrew course, but because of his financial situation, he put it off for a bit."

Ibrahim Agbarieh served his sentence at Gilboa prison in northern Israel between July 2016 and December 2017. While there, according to a Palestinian source, he was placed in a wing reserved for Hamas prisoners.

The second assailant, Ayman Agbarieh, also from Umm al-Fahm, northeast of Hadera, also identified with the Islamic State. He was arrested by the Shin Bet security service in 2017 on suspicion of weapons violations, but was released three weeks later without charges.

Both attackers were killed by security forces on Sunday in Hadera, after the two opened fire.

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