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Israeli citizen indicted for alleged service in Islamic State

Hamza Magamzeh from the Galilee town of Yafia spent 10 days in Syria fighting Bashar Assad’s regime in October

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, Syria (AP/Shin Bet)
Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, Syria (AP/Shin Bet)

An Arab citizen of Israel was arrested in October and indicted Sunday for an alleged brief stint of service in Syria with the Islamic State terror group, the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police announced Sunday.

Hamza Magamzeh, 22, is suspected to be one of the roughly two dozen Arab citizens of Israel who have left the country to fight alongside the rebels battling the regime of Bashar Assad. Most have volunteered to serve within the ranks of jihadist groups such as the Islamic State, raising security concerns in Israel both on account of the inside information they are capable of delivering and the battle experience and knowledge of the terror craft that they are able to acquire in Syria.

Thus far, two Israeli Arab citizens have left to fight on the side of the Assad regime, the Shin Bet revealed in a separate report on the phenomenon.

Magamzeh left Israel for Turkey on October 5. He and two friends from his hometown of Yafia, outside Nazareth, then crossed into Syria and arrived at an Islamic State training camp, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

Magamzeh and his two friends, Muhammad Kilani and Muhammad Kananeh, went through several weeks of basic training, where they learned to operate weapons.

During the introductory course the men met a fourth Arab citizen of Israel, Maharan Khaldi, 19, of Nazareth, who had left for Syria earlier in October.

After 10 days in the country, Magamzeh left Syria, “deciding to return to his family,” the Shin Bet said, and made his way back to Turkey and onto an Israel-bound jet. He was arrested upon arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

A screen capture from a YouTube video allegedly shows Islamic State group fighters firing from an armed vehicle on a road leading to Ain al-Arab, known by the Kurds as Kobani, on the Syria-Turkey border. (photo credit: AFP/HO/AAMAQ NEWS AGENCY)
A screen capture from a YouTube video allegedly shows Islamic State group fighters firing from an armed vehicle on a road leading to Ain al-Arab, known by the Kurds as Kobani, on the Syria-Turkey border. (photo credit: AFP/HO/AAMAQ NEWS AGENCY)

On Sunday November 23 he was indicted in a district court in Nazareth on charges of contact with a foreign agent, membership in an illegal organization, and conspiring to commit a crime. A hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday, December 2, to determine whether he will be detained until the end of the legal proceedings.

The Shin Bet has barred several individuals, many of whom are students in their late teens and early twenties, from trying to leave the country for Syria and advocated for severe prison sentences for those who are caught upon return. “The departure of Arabs from Israel for Syria, and their stay there alongside global jihad elements, constitutes a series of threats,” the Shin Bet wrote in a report.

Foremost among those threats, the security organization said, was the possibility that the terror groups in Syria would use the Israeli volunteers to “learn the Israeli arena” in order to carry out terror attacks there. “The threat potential, from that perspective, is only intensified by the fact of the shared border between Israel and Syria and the possibility of acting against it [Israel] in the area.”

Additionally, the Shin Bet wrote in a recent report, the Israeli volunteers could be used to further an Islamist ideological agenda in Israel, to wittingly or unwittingly offer logistical aid to terror networks in Israel, and, “even to establish terror cells and carry out attacks.”

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