Two weeks ago, Israeli authorities filed an indictment against an Israeli Arab who had allegedly travelled to Syria to fight with jihadist groups, specifically the Al Nusrah Front (Jabhat al Nusra), against the Syrian regime. News of the indictment against Abed al Kader Afif Abed al Kader Altelah, 26, was revealed today as a gag order on the case was lifted.
According to a statement from the Shin Bet, Altelah, originally from the village of Taybe, had studied in Jordan and become friends with Iraqi and Palestinian students who followed the Salafi jihadist ideology. Altelah was influenced by these students and subsequently adopted the ideology himself, the Shin Bet said.
During interrogation, Altelah admitted to making contact with the Al Nusrah Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and seeking to wage “jihad” against the Syrian army. According to the indictment, Altelah reached Syria after flying from Amman, Jordan to Turkey. He stayed in Syria no more than a week.
Altelah was arrested upon his arrival from Turkey at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. Based on comments from Altelah’s lawyer, the Israeli paper suggested that Israeli authorities had become interested in Altelah as a result of his own family’s concern. According to the report, when his family saw that their son had booked flights to Turkey, they contacted the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which subsequently notified the Shin Bet.
The Jerusalem Post further added that Altelah’s lawyer claimed that his client had made a mistake when he went to Syria and that he had gone only to provide medical supplies. “[H]e realized he wasn’t Rambo,” so he returned, the lawyer said.
Today the Shin Bet repeated a previous warning about the involvement of Israeli Arabs in fighting for the Syrian opposition alongside jihadists. “There is a 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,” the Shin Bet said.
On July 8, Hikmat Massarwa, an Israeli Arab also from the village of Taybe, was sentenced to 30 months in jail. He had gone to Syria and trained with members of the Syrian opposition. While in Syria, Massarwa had been asked to carry out a suicide attack in Israel, but he declined.
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