East Jerusalemite indicted for joining Islamic State in Syria

Shin Bet arrests Jerusalem resident upon his return to country after weeks of with radical Islamist group

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Khalil Adel Khalil, a resident of East Jerusalem accused of joining the Islamic State group (photo credit: Shin Bet)
Khalil Adel Khalil, a resident of East Jerusalem accused of joining the Islamic State group (photo credit: Shin Bet)

An East Jerusalem resident was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of planing to join the Islamic State group and fight alongside the Islamist rebels in war-torn Syria, the Shin Bet security service said Monday.

An indictment filed at the Jerusalem District Court accused Khalil Adel Khalil of attempting to join an unlawful organization, attempting to contact foreign agents, and traveling to illegal destinations.

During his interrogation, Khalil, born in 1990, said he had planned to travel to Syria in August 2014 with his friend Sami a-Aziz Abu Sneina, according to a Shin Bet statement.

Khalil, who served as a medical staffer at Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital in the Judean Hills, said he and Abu Sneina decided to join IS after watching recruitment videos online.

Khalil added that before leaving Israel, he told his family and bosses he was preparing to take a vacation in order to make a religious pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca.

In reality, however, Khalil and Abu Sneina bought a one-way-ticket to Turkey. After landing in Istanbul, the two traveled to a safe house in the south of the country, where they met several IS recruits, including two other Arab Israelis. The two were then smuggled across the Syrian border and later joined up with IS forces in the embattled country. They returned to Israel a few weeks later and were arrested.

The Shin Bet did not release the identities of the other Arab Israelis.

Khalil resurfaced in Israel several weeks later and was arrested for interrogation by the Shin Bet on March 1.

The Shin Bet did not state the reasons behind Khalil’s sudden return to Israel, nor did it provide information on the current whereabouts of Abu Sneina.

A propaganda video published by Islamic State earlier this month showed the execution of Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam, an East Jerusalem man who was accused of being a Mossad spy after trying to leave the group.

His family denied he was a spy and said he had tried to leave in order to visit his sick mother.

Last month, a resident of Nazareth was indicted for joining up with the IS terror group and taking part in fighting in Iraq.

A month earlier, the Shin Bet arrested seven other Israeli citizens that had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.

“This incident illustrates the security threat posed by Israel’s joining the Islamic State’s ranks and taking part in the fighting, after being exposed to the group’s internet propaganda,” the Shin Bet statement said. “These [men’s] return to Israel, after gaining knowledge and practical experience in terrorism and combat, pose a significant threat of carrying out serious terror attacks in Israel.”

Jonathan Beck contributed to this report.

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