A court in the northern Israeli city of Haifa on November 3 sentenced an Israeli Arab citizen to 22 months in prison for fighting with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.
The defendant was named as 23 year old Ahmad Shurbaji from Umm Al Fahm, one of Israel's largest Arab cities with 50,000 residents. Shurbaji was convicted of training with an illegal terrorist organization operating in Iraq and Syria.
According to the indictment, Shurbaji went to Syria via Turkey, where he joined a militant group named Jaish Mohammad ("Army of Mohammad") and spent a week undergoing training. Shurbaji then joined IS.
During his four months with IS, Shurbaji attended religion classes and learned how to use a variety of weapons, including a Kalashnikov, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a heavy machine gun, and grenades. Shurbaji performed armed guard duties and took part in two battles, the indictment said.
On April 16, however, Shurbaji decided to return to Israel. He contacted an Israeli security official, and said he had made a mistake and wanted to come home, according to the indictment. Shurbaji was arrested upon his arrival in Israel.
Shurbaji's attorney argued that Israel had no jurisdiction over the military training his client received in Syria, and that the training was designed to help rebels battling an enemy state. Syria and Israel are officially at war.
In sentencing Shurbaji, Judge Orit Kantor said that Arab citizens of Israel could pose a domestic security threat, including by creating connections with other extremist militants.
There has been increasing concern in Israel about Israeli nationals fighting in Syria, including fighting with IS. Two Israeli Arab citizens have been reported killed fighting for IS, one of whom died near Ramadi in western Iraq.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk