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Israeli Arab jailed for fighting in Syria

Yusef Nasrallah held for eight months after being arrested by Damascus regime forces, then returned to Israel

Free Syrian Army fighters run after attacking a Syrian Army tank during fighting in the Izaa district of Aleppo, Syria, on September 7, 2012. (AP/Manu Brabo, File)
Free Syrian Army fighters run after attacking a Syrian Army tank during fighting in the Izaa district of Aleppo, Syria, on September 7, 2012. (AP/Manu Brabo, File)

An Israeli court on Monday sentenced an Arab citizen to 11 months in prison for traveling to fight alongside Syrian rebels in the Jewish state’s war-torn neighbor.

Several Israeli Arabs have been arrested after returning from Syria, where armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad is now dominated by jihadists, including the Islamic State group.

Yusef Nasrallah traveled via Jordan to Syria where his intention was to “die as a martyr alongside rebels” fighting Assad, the court said in its verdict.

But two days after reaching Syria, Nasrallah was arrested by the Assad regime and spent eight months in prison where he was “tortured and interrogated.”

During that time, he passed on information about an Israeli military base, the court said, without elaborating.

Nasrallah was released and returned to Israel in December 2014, where the Shin Bet domestic security service detained him.

Several Israeli Arabs have been convicted for attempts to join the Syrian rebels.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently said that others had gone specifically to join IS, which holds swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic State purportedly executed an Israeli Arab, Muhammed Said Ismail Musallam, earlier this month after he went to join the group, accusing him of being an Israeli spy.

An IS video appeared to show a child shooting Musallam in the head.

Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam, an Arab from East Jerusalem held captive by the Islamic State group for allegedly being a Mossad spy, shown in a video apparently showing his execution, March 10, 2015. ( screen capture: YouTube)
Muhammed Said Ismail Musallam, an Arab from East Jerusalem held captive by the Islamic State group for allegedly being an Israeli spy, shown in a video apparently showing his execution, March 10, 2015. (screen capture: YouTube)

Security authorities say they know of about 30 Israeli Arabs who have made their way to Syria to fight for jihadist groups against Assad’s regime, but that only a few joined IS.

Israeli Arabs number around 1.4 million, just over 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Israel and Syria are technically still at war, following their 1967 and 1973 conflicts.

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