Israeli Arab convicted in Haifa court after training with Islamic State in Syria

Umm al-Fahm resident Ahmed Shurbaji, 23, went to Syria through Turkey, receiving weapons training among the ranks of the Islamic State.

An Islamic State fighter carries the group’s flag in Raqqa, north-central Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Islamic State fighter carries the group’s flag in Raqqa, north-central Syria.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Haifa Magistrate's Court on Tuesday convicted Umm al-Fahm resident Ahmed Shurbaji, 23, of illegally traveling to Syria to take part in military drills after he admitted to training with Islamic State terrorists.
Shurjabi left Israel for Turkey in January after he and two friends decided to offer their help to Syrian rebels fighting the army of President Bashar Assad. From Turkey they traveled to Syria, joining a rebel force that called itself Jeish Muhammad (The Army of Muhammad).
The trio trained with the rebel force, enlisting into the ranks of the Islamic State a week later.
While serving as a member of the Islamic State, Shurjabi received further military and religious training. He learned how to operate weapons such as Kalashnikov rifles and grenade launchers, and learned about Sunni and Shi'ite Islam.
He received a Kalashniov rifle and was forced to deposit his passport. As part of his service he traveled throughout Syria, kept guard, patrolled and took part in two battles.
On April 16, Shurjabi contacted an Israeli security source, telling him that he had made a mistake. He told the Israeli source that he did not have documents to enter Israel, asking for his help to come home.
The source told him that he would be welcomed back to Israel, and he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport four days later, where he was arrested.
In the indictment, submitted by attorney Meital Chen of the Haifa State Attorney's Office, Shurjabi was accused of knowingly traveling from Israel to Syria illegally and taking part in military and weapons training.
Judge Orit Kantor accepted the state's charges, rejecting Shurjabi's claims that the military training he took part in was in Syria and had no bearing on Israel's security,  therefore being outside the court's jurisdiction.
The state argued that Israeli-Arabs who fight in Syria with extremist groups such as Islamic State could potentially pose a danger to Israeli security upon their return.