Three Northern Israel Residents Indicted for Allegedly Spying for Syria

Fada Sha'ar, his father Majd Sha'ar and Mahmoud Masarwah charged with spying, contact with foreign agents and passing information to an enemy state.

Three residents of villages in northern Israel were indicted by a Nazareth court on Thursday on charges they allegedly spied for and passed information to agents in Syria, authorities revealed after a gag order was lifted in the case.

The Sha'ar family
Jalaa Marey

Fada Sha'ar, his father Majd Sha'ar and Mahmoud Masarwah were to be charged with spying, contact with foreign agents and passing information to the enemy. They were allegedly in contact with a Syrian agent, Madhat Salah, to whom they passed information and video footage of submarine activity off the coast of Haifa.

The most serious charge to be brought against them was that they allegedly planned to kidnap from Israel a man whom they mistakenly believed to be a Syrian pilot who defected to Israel in 1989. They allegedly planned to render him unconscious and return him to Syrian hands.

All three of the suspects were arrested last month in a case whose details have been kept under a gag order. An additional suspect, the mother of Fada Sha'ar, Mona, was also arrested in connection with the case, but was later freed.

According to the charges, Madhat Salah used to live in Majdal Shams, a Druze village in northern Israel where the Sha'ar family lives, but moved to Syria. He allegedly has been friends with Mona Sha'ar since childhood. The suspects knew that Salah was working for the Syrian government and had contacts with Syrian intelligence agents. They were in touch with him starting in either 2007 or 2008, at which point they began to meet and be in contact with him and pass information that could potentially harm Israel's security, prosecutors said.

The defense attorneys of the three suspects called the indictment against their clients "exaggerated" and said that they denied the charges brought against them. The lawyers complained that they are not able to address the specific claims made in the indictment as they have not had access to material from the police investigation.

The attorneys deny that Salah has any connection to Syrian intelligence agents. They say that he worked for a branch of the Syrian government which was in charge of villages in the Golan Heights region, which is where the border between Israel and Syria is located.

Fada Sha'ar was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on July 10 when he was on a return flight from Paris. When police arrived to search his house in the Druze village of Majdal Shams clashes broke out between the residents of the village who attempted to prevent the police from entering the Sha'ar family's home. His father, Majd, was arrested a few weeks later.

Masarwah is a well-known political activist from Baka al-Garbiyeh, who has been active over recent years on behalf of political prisoners jailed in Israel. He has been arrested in the past and has spent some time in prison.