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Nazareth Court Convicts Israeli Citizen Who Fought With IS


There has been increasing concern in Israel about Israeli nationals fighting in Syria, including alongside IS. (file photo)

There has been increasing concern in Israel about Israeli nationals fighting in Syria, including alongside IS. (file photo)

A court in the Israeli city of Nazareth has found a Palestinian citizen of Israel guilty on counts connected with joining and training with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

The defendant was named as 22-year-old Hamza Magamseh of Yafa an-Naseriyye, an Arab village near Nazareth. Magamseh was arrested in October 2014 after returning from Syria where he allegedly joined IS. He was charged with several counts: contacting a foreign agent, membership of an illegal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and leaving Israel illegally.

On April 15, a panel of three judges found Magamseh guilty of the first count -- contacting a foreign agent. The court has already convicted Magamseh of the other counts, according to the NRG news website.

Following his arrest, Magamseh admitted that he had traveled to Syria on October 5 together with three friends. Magamseh and two of his friends decided to travel on to Syria in order to join IS, according to prosecutors.

In their ruling convicting Magamseh, the judges wrote that the main fear associated with Israeli nationals fighting alongside militants in Syria was the threat to national security that could arise if such militants returned to Israel.

The judges said that the "phenomenon of Israeli citizens or residents going to Syria for jihad in order to participate in fighting alongside rebels against the Syrian government entails a real possibility that the ideological and military training that they undertake there will be exploited for terrorist activity against Israeli targets, or the distribution of material advocating such [activity], from lone wolf initiatives to initiatives [carried out by] the advocates of global jihad (including IS) with whom they came into contact in Syria."

Israeli nationals who fight alongside IS in Syria could also provide IS with "valuable information about Israel," the judges added, which could be used in "terrorist activity against Israeli targets."

'Traveling To An Enemy State'

Although the judges found Magamseh guilty, they rejected as unproven the prosecution's allegation that the goal of the 22-year-old's trip to Syria to join IS had been to harm Israel.

However, the judges said that Magamseh had intended to join IS, an activity which could have resulted in his harming state security.

The judges also noted that Magamseh had traveled to an "enemy state" -- Syria and Israel are officially at war, and Israelis are prohibited by law from visiting Syria.

"Traveling to an enemy state, which is embroiled in a bloody war, in order to join the fighting as part of a terrorist organization, among whose objectives according to its extremist ideology is the destruction of Israel, and then going on to actually join that organization, does not come within the bounds of a 'reasonable explanation'," the judges said.

Magamseh will be sentenced in June.

In November, a court in the Israeli city of Haifa sentenced a 23-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, Ahmad Shurbaji, to 22 months in prison for fighting alongside IS in Syria.

The indictment said that Shurbaji had spent four months with IS, where he learned how to use a variety of weapons, performed guard duties, and even took part in two battles.

The news reports of the convictions of Magamseh and Shurbaji did not give details of how the men were recruited to IS.

There has been increasing concern in Israel about Israeli nationals fighting in Syria, including alongside IS.

At least three Arab citizens of Israel have been killed in Syria and Iraq. Ahmad Habshi, aged 23, from the village of Iksal near Nazareth was reported killed in fighting near Ramadi in Iraq in October 2014. Mouid Jumaa, a resident of Wadi Ara in northern Israel was reportedly killed in Syria in September 2014.

In March, IS militants released a video of the execution-style killing of Muhammad Musallam, a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem, who IS said had spied for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. Musallam's father, Said Musallam, said that his son had been "brainwashed" by IS.

"I don't know what they did to him. He says he was told, 'Paradise, girls, villas, money.' They promised him all sorts of stuff," his father told Israel's Army Radio in March.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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