Arab Israeli woman charged with joining terror group in Syria
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Arab Israeli woman charged with joining terror group in Syria

22-year-old accused of traveling to war-torn country to die as a martyr for the al-Nusra Front out of extremist ideology

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: An undated photo of fighters from al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, marching toward the northern village of al-Ais in Aleppo province. (Al-Nusra Front via AP)
File: An undated photo of fighters from al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, marching toward the northern village of al-Ais in Aleppo province. (Al-Nusra Front via AP)

The Shin Bet security service last month arrested a 22-year-old Arab Israeli woman suspected of having joined the al-Nusra Front terror group in Syria in March 2018.

Rania Shenawi, of the Arab town of Makr, was arrested on May 7 upon her return to Israel from Syria, the Shin Bet said.

Last Friday, Shenawi was charged in a Haifa court with contacting a foreign agent, attempting to join a terror group, illegally leaving the country and theft. She was also charged with attacking a police officer while in custody.

According to the security service, Shenawi traveled to Syria last April, having crossed into the war-torn country from Turkey using a counterfeit identity card. In order to fund her trip, Shenawi stole approximately NIS 10,000 ($2,750) from her father, according to the indictment.

Rania Shenawi, an Arab Israeli woman accused of joining the al-Nusra Front terror group in Syria. (Shin Bet)

In Syria, she allegedly joined al-Nusra Front, which has been connected off and on over the years to both the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terror groups.

“The findings of the investigation of Shenawi show that she held an extreme ideological worldview, mostly in supporting the Islamic State terror group and in a deep hatred of Jews,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, she had made contact over the internet with a Syrian national who invited her to come to the country and join al-Nusra Front.

“Shenawi agreed to this offer out of a desire to die ‘a martyr’s death,'” the Shin Bet said.

A month after arriving in Syria, she was arrested by al-Nusra Front officers on the suspicion that she was an Israeli spy. Shenawi was held in prison in Idlib until March. A month later, she was dropped off at the border with Turkey, where she was arrested by Turkish security officers.

Shenawi was returned to Israel on May 7 and arrested at the airport.

While in police custody, on May 21, Shenawi attacked a police interrogator, stomping on his foot and kicking him repeatedly, according to the indictment.

The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals had fought for Islamic State and other terror groups in Iraq and Syria. Most were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested. Many willingly returned, despite knowing they would be indicted, due to the abysmal living conditions in the Islamist-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria.

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