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Analysis

Former IDF soldier joins Islamic State in Syria

25-year-old Muslim man crossed Turkish border to join ranks of jihadist group, Arab intelligence sources say

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Illustrative photo of Islamic State militants, with an IS fighter waving the group flag in Fallujah, Iraq, west of Baghdad, June 28, 2015. (Militant website of IS, via AP)
Illustrative photo of Islamic State militants, with an IS fighter waving the group flag in Fallujah, Iraq, west of Baghdad, June 28, 2015. (Militant website of IS, via AP)

A Muslim Israeli citizen who formerly served in the IDF has joined the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria, Arab intelligence sources told The Times of Israel on Thursday.

Identified only by the initials H.B., the man is 25 years old and a resident of a village in northern Israel, the sources said. He traveled from Israel to Turkey and then crossed the border into Syria.

According to his military identification card, which was seen by a Times of Israel reporter, he was slated to complete his military service in January 2014 and brought his IDF dog tags with him to Syria.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the man traveled to Syria, where he crossed the border, or his current whereabouts.

Last month, Israel security services arrested five men from the northern city of Jaljuliya, charging them with attempting to join IS in Syria. A relative of one of the men made headlines in October when he flew a paraglider into southern Syria from the Golan heights to join jihadis fighting there.

Arab intelligence sources told The Times of Israel that between 100 and 150 Israeli Arabs are either serving in or detained by the Islamic State, but this is the first case involving an IDF veteran.

In March, East Jerusalemite Muhammad Musallam, who had gone to Syria join IS, was executed after the group claimed he was a Mossad agent. A video of the execution released by the jihadi group showed Musallam shot repeatedly by a teenage boy, after which a second jihadi vowed that IS would “liberate Jerusalem from you filth, by Allah’s permission.”

Lee Gancman contributed to this report.

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