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Arab Israeli on trial for joining jihadist fighters in Syria

AFP , Wednesday 14 May 2014
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A young Arab Israeli who joined rebel forces in Syria and underwent military training with jihadist fighters law went on trial Wednesday charged with violating Israeli law, legal and security officials said.

Ahmad Shurbaji, 23, from Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, along with three other Arab Israelis on January 16 left for Turkey, from where they crossed into Syria, the prosecution said.

According to the Shin Bet domestic security agency, Shurbaji was arrested upon his return to Israel on April 20.

"In his investigation, Shurbaji admitted he went to Syria to join the struggle against the Syrian army," the Shin Bet statement read.

It said he joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, "one of the most extreme global jihadist groups currently active in Syria".

He underwent military training with ISIL and "participated in at least two battles" against government forces as well as other actions, including on the Iraqi border, it said.

Shurbaji was charged on Wednesday at Haifa magistrate court in northern Israel with unlawfully leaving Israel and undergoing prohibited military training, the charge sheet read.

Israel is technically at war with Syria and it is illegal for its citizens to travel there.

"The phenomenon of Arab Israelis leaving for Syria represents great danger for Israel," the Shin Bet said.

It said many "hostile elements" were active in Syria and that recruits underwent military training and were "exposed to extremist jihadist ideology."

The main concern, Shin Bet said, was that Arab Israelis could be "used by terror elements to carry out military operations against Israel, or obtain information about it."

Israel shares an 80-kilometre (50-mile) frontier with Syria, which cuts across the occupied Golan Heights plateau.

Syria's brutal three-year conflict occasionally spills over into the Israeli-controlled sector, which the Jewish state seized during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel's defence establishment closely monitors the ceasefire line out of concern that jihadist elements among the rebels fighting the regime could attack the Jewish state.

 

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