On April 12, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit, confirmed the death of Israeli Arab Hussein Othman Masarwa. In a series of tweets the ITMC, known for publishing statements from the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, said that Masarwa had died a few days earlier in Syria.
The tweets did not specify how Masarwa died or the group he had been fighting for. According to press reports, Masarwa had been in Syria for about two years prior to his death.
It is currently unclear whether Hussein Othman Masarwa, originally from Tayibe, Israel, is related to Hikmat Masarwa, also from Tayibe. In April 2013, Hikmat Masrawa was arrested after returning from Syria, where Israeli authorities said he had received military training from Syria opposition members. According to some reports, Hikmat had received training from “global jihad fighters.” In July 2013, Hikmat, who said he had gone to Syria to find his brother, accepted a plea bargain.
Reliable figures on the number of Israeli Arabs who are fighting or have fought in the ongoing Syrian conflict are hard to come by. According to one report, the number is between 15 and 20. In February, Abd al Kadr Altaleh, an Israeli Arab also from Tayibe, was convicted of going to Syria and joining al Qaeda’s Al Nusrah Front. Last September, press reports and jihadists said that Mueid Juma’a, an Israeli Arab who fought with the Al Nusrah Front, had died fighting in Syria. In October, reports suggested that Juma’a may be alive, however.
The Shin Bet has warned on a number of occasions since the fighting began in Syria that authorities “fear they [Israeli Arabs] will be exploited by terrorists [in Syria], both as a source of information about targets in Israel, as well as for carrying out military operations against Israel.”