Syrian opposition fighter.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ward Al-Keswani)
Security forces arrested an Israeli Arab resident of Taiba on suspicion of
fighting with rebels in Syria against the regime of President Bashar Assad, the
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Wednesday.
named as 29- year-old Hichmat Masarwa, was arrested on March 19 by the Shin Bet
and Israel Police upon returning from Turkey, after suspicions emerged that he
had joined global jihadi groups in Syria and had tried to locate his brother,
who traveled to Syria in recent months to fight with the rebels as
The Central District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday filed an
indictment in the Lod District Court against Masarwa charging him with contact
with a foreign agent, unlawful military training and leaving the country
Masarwa flew from Israel to Turkey on March 3, with the goal
of eventually joining up with the Syrian rebels, the document stated. Masarwa
then crossed from Turkey into Syria illegally on March 11.
Masarwa underwent military training with rebel forces... including weapons
training. He was offered the possibility of carrying out a suicide bombing
against the army of the Assad regime, but he says he refused this,” the Shin Bet
Rebel forces frequently questioned Masarwa about Israel and its
armed forces, and he was asked about weapons in use by the IDF, as well as the
nuclear power plant in Dimona, the Shin Bet said, adding that he was asked to
carry out an attack in Israel, but refused this offer as well.
being requested to carry out attacks in Israel and being questioned about
Israeli security, Masarwa did not break contact with the rebel forces, alleged
the district attorney’s office.
Only on March 17 – after Masarwa, under
pressure from his family, had failed to find his brother and had decided that
the groups he had met up with were not meeting his expectations in fighting the
Syrian regime – did he return to Turkey from Syria, the indictment
In fact, the document said that Syrian rebels refused Masarwa’s
requests to engage in live-fire exercises and only allowed him other forms of
training, including weapons assembly and observing livefire
Before leaving the rebels, Masarwa took down email, Skype and
Facebook information from several rebels in order to maintain contact and took
pictures with a number of them, according to the indictment.
Arabs who travel to Syria are exposed to radical ideology, and could be enlisted
for terrorist attacks in Israel due to their knowledge of targets in the
country, security sources said, adding that this represented a serious national
The indictment emphasized in introductory paragraphs why
Masarwa’s activities were problematic and dangerous.
The case may be
complicated for the prosecution as Masarwa was volunteering to fight the Assad
regime, a regime at war with Israel, and he refused to undertake any actions
The indictment indicated, however, that even having
contact with the rebels, which includes elements who view Israel as the enemy,
could result in unintended dangers to Israeli security.
Those who contact
groups fighting in Syria could give them information and, in so doing, could
lead to more connections between Israeli citizens and such seditious
The prosecution also requested that Masarwa be detained until
the end of the proceedings.
Prosecutors argued that, since Masarwa had
contacts in Syria, he would be more likely to return to the country and join
them, especially to escape conviction and a prison sentence for his
Masarwa’s detention was extended temporarily until April 25, when
the court is set to decide whether to keep him in custody until the end of the
Masarwa’s arraignment is set for May 16.