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East Jerusalem woman charged with spying for Hezbollah

Yasmin Jaber, an employee of the National Library at Hebrew U., was detained in August and held for weeks by Shin Bet before charges were announced on Friday

Yasmin Jaber, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem arrested for allegedly spying for Hezbollah. (Shin Bet)
Yasmin Jaber, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem arrested for allegedly spying for Hezbollah. (Shin Bet)

The state prosecution charged East Jerusalem resident Yasmin Jaber for ties with Hezbollah on Friday at the Jerusalem District Court, alleging that she spied for Hezbollah and sought to recruit more Arab Israelis to work for the Lebanese terror group.

After being held for 44 days in administrative detention by the Shin Bet security service, Jaber was charged with two counts of illegally leaving the country, two counts of contact with a foreign agent, membership in a terrorist organization, and possession of an article for the purpose of terror.

While many of the charges — leaving the country illegally and contact with foreign agents — were clearly articulated in court filings, the indictment did not specify what property Jaber had possessed and intended to use in a terror attack.

Jaber denies the charges; her lawyer alleges that she was interrogated 20 hours a day for weeks at a time and was denied legal counsel.

The indictment published on Friday describes what the Shin Bet alleges were numerous meetings with Hezbollah agents, both in Lebanon and in Turkey.

Hezbollah supporters hold pictures of slain Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah leaders, Abbas al-Moussawi, Ragheb Harb and Imad Mughniyeh and the end of a 40-day Muslim mourning period for Soleimani, in Beirut, Lebanon, February 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

According to the indictment, Jaber left the country in 2015 to attend a youth conference focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Beirut. During her time in Lebanon, she went to a number of sites operated by the Hezbollah terror group, including a museum in the rolling hills of south Lebanon and the grave of a renowned terrorist allegedly assassinated by Israel.

Jaber does not deny that she went to Lebanon. According to her lawyer, Omar Khamaisi, attempting to charge her for “leaving the country illegally” would be ridiculous.

“These trips to Lebanon weren’t secret. It was all well-known to the authorities. In fact, when she returned with the 10 or so people with whom she traveled, they were interrogated at the border,” Khamaisi said. “Traveling to Lebanon today isn’t a crime.”

The Shin Bet claims that Jaber was recruited during a subsequent visit to Beirut. Her trip was paid for by Hezbollah agent Ataya Samhadana, the security service alleged. During her second trip, Ataya introduced Jaber to an “old man” who refused to be identified. After hours of conversations, the unnamed man convinced her to begin spying for the terror group, the Shin Bet said.

At subsequent meetings with her handlers in Turkey, the security service said, Jaber was instructed to recruit Arab Israeli operatives for Hezbollah inside Israel. Jaber was also given money — around $320 in total, according to the indictment.

She continued to communicate with her handlers through messages on social media that appeared innocuous, but contained secret instructions, the Shin Bet said.

“This Shin Bet investigation…is the product of a lengthy intelligence operation to locate those suspected of being recruited by Hezbollah. It is another step in the counterterrorism efforts carried out in the past year against [Iranian] Quds Force and Hezbollah attempts to recruit Israeli Arabs,” a senior Shin Bet official said in a statement on Thursday.

Jaber argued that her relationship with the man the Shin Bet describes as her handler amounted to friendship or collegiality, nothing more. The social media posts, she told the Shin Bet, were nothing more than what they appeared to be — photos and poems.

“Why would she take and post selfies with Hezbollah agents, if she knew that’s what they were?” Khamaisi asked rhetorically.

Alleged secret messages in an Arabic-language poem published by what the Shin Bet claims is a Hezbollah-affiliated social media account which Yasmine Jaber used to communicate with her handlers (Shin Bet)

Khamaisi alleged that Jaber was interrogated by the Shin Bet for weeks, often for 20 hours at a time. She was not allowed any access to a lawyer while she was held in detention, he said.

“After weeks of interrogations, sometimes up to 20 hours a day, she stuck to her story,” Khamaisi said. “As a result, the indictment only speaks of all these things she was allegedly ‘asked’ to do, without anything she actually did. This is a weak indictment.”

A woman arrested along with Jaber, who allegedly was part of the same Hezbollah cell, confessed to having contacts with the terror group as part of a plea bargain.

Tasneem al-Qadi, originally from Ramallah and an acquaintance of Jaber arrested along with her, received an additional 44 days in prison and a fine of NIS 1,000 ($288).

The Shin Bet alleged that al-Qadi, a Turkish resident, mediated between Jaber and Hezbollah. She was originally detained on August 4 and held in administrative detention without access to legal counsel until her plea bargain on Friday. Friday’s indictment, however, does not mention al-Qadi at all.

“[Al-Qadi] served as the unit’s liaison with Jaber, as part of the secret communications channels used by the terrorist unit to prevent the disclosure of its activities to elements in Israel, and even received money from them,” the Shin Bet said last Thursday.

Khamaisi said that al-Qadi’s relatively light sentence for her contacts with Hezbollah showed that the investigation was a “game,” in which Jaber was being made out to play the role of “scapegoat.”

Jaber’s employer, the National Library at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, expressed “great surprise that our employee, Yasmin Jaber, is suspected of such grave offenses.”

“The security services did not update us over the past weeks as to her arrest. The Library will help in every possible way with the investigation in the event that we are asked to do,” a spokesperson for the National Library said on Thursday.

منشور من زملاء ياسمين جابر في حراك سير وصيرورة فوجئنا بالأيّام الأخيرة باتّهامات المخابرات الإسرائيليّة لزميلتنا…

פורסם על ידי ‏سير وصيرورة‏ ב- יום שבת, 19 בספטמבר 2020

A Palestinian student group that Jaber helped found while studying at Hebrew University came to her defense on Saturday, calling her “a beautiful, dedicated, diligent person who loves her family, friends, and her city, and seeks to serve them with generosity.”

“Anyone who is involved in the Palestinian cause and participates in social and educational activities, like Yasmine does…will naturally meet new friends without knowing the true nature of their work,” the Sayr wa Sayrura student group said in Jaber’s defense. “We believe Yasmine’s story…because it is a thousand times closer to the person we knew.”

Jaber’s arraignment is scheduled for October 12.

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