Security forces services recently busted a group of six Israeli Arab men who planned to travel to Syria with the intention of fighting alongside the radical Islamic State group. A seventh member of the group succeeded in flying across the Israel-Syrian border on the Golan Heights on a hang glider last month.
In a statement Wednesday, the Shin Bet security service said the six suspects, all residents of the northern Israeli-Arab town of Jaljulia, had been planning for months to make their way to Syria.
On Wednesday, the district attorney filed indictments against the men, who stand accused of contacting an enemy agent, conspiracy to commit a crime, attempting to travel to an enemy state, and assisting travel to an enemy state.
The seventh member of the group, Nadal Hamad Salah Salah, 23, flew a hang glider across the border from the Golan Heights and into Syria on October 24, setting off an intensive investigation by security services.
As a result of the initial investigation, later the same evening two brothers were arrested, Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala, 26 and Ahab Nadal Yousel Hagala, 22.
The brothers were known to police as supporters of the Islamic State group, the Shin Bet said. The elder brother, Jihad, spent six months in Syria in 2013 fighting with IS and was arrested after his return to Israel. He was tried, sentenced to prison, and released in November 2014.
During the investigation, it emerged that the brothers had helped Salah to make his exit to Syria to join IS, the indictment said. In recent months Salah had allegedly agreed with Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala to use hang gliders to get to Syria. The pair planned to glide over the border because Hagala was concerned that, due to his history, he would be flagged and stopped by Israeli security if he tried flying out of Ben Gurion Airport on a commercial flight.
During the investigation details emerged of four others who also planned to join the Islamic State: Anas Nadal Yousef Hagala, 19, a third Hagala brother; Mahmad Amin Udah, 28; Mahmad Jamil Sa’ada Zakgait, 22; and Adnan Ismail Utmaan Inash, 21.
In addition to communicating via the internet, for several months the group met in Jihad Hadal’s home and, under his leadership, studied religious lessons while he preached Islamic State ideology and the need to support the jihadist organization.
Mahmad Udah and Anas Hagal planned to travel via Turkey, as did Mahamad Zakgait and Adnaan Anash. Jihad Hadal and Salah also settled on the hang glider plan to avoid possible security issues at the airport.
The six planned to meet up in Syria.
However, two members of the group, Adnaan Anash and Mahmad Zakgati, abandoned the plan because they were worried about the precarious overland route from Turkey to Syria and because they feared their parents wouldn’t let them go.
During October, Anas Hagalah and Mahmad Udah left for Turkey to head for Syria. The two tried to arrange entry to Syria with IS activists there, but the link-up didn’t work and they returned to Israel.
Meanwhile, Salah and Jihad Hadal went to the Golan to cross the border with the hang glider but due to a technical problem the attempt failed and they returned home.
Eventually, out of six activists only one — Salah — made it to Syria.
The Shin Bet said that crossing the border into Syria to join the Islamic State poses an immediate threat to national security and a lot of effort is being made to prevent Israeli citizens from leaving for Syria.
Recently three residents of the Lower Galilee town of Yafia, supporters of Islamic State, confessed to planning attacks in Israel, the Shin Bet statement added.