Rabiya Shahade, 26, an Israeli citizen from Nazareth, has reportedly been fighting in Syria alongside the radical jihadist group Islamic State and has been in that country for about a year.
Shahade, who goes by the name Abu Musaav Alsafuri in Syria, was described in a Yedioth Ahronoth report Sunday as having had Christian and Jewish friends before he became radicalized. He left behind in Israel a wife and newborn son.
A high school friend of Shahade told the paper that he was “one of the best students in class and was at the top in almost every subject.” Shahade was “an all around good guy… He never hurt anyone and even had Jewish friends with whom he was in regular contact,” the friend added.
Shahade was described as being a promising engineering student before he left for Syria. Another acquaintance said that there was “a sudden shift” in Shahad, who “began acting strangely and started sitting alone,” but would always say that he was fine. His friends tried to help, but “after another month he left without explanation. When we heard he went to Syria we couldn’t believe it.”
Videos featuring Shahade have been circulating on jihadist websites, and an acquaintance said that he made contact several months ago through Facebook, where Shahade confirmed he was in Syria and associated with the Islamic State.
The phenomenon of radicalized Muslim fighters joining Islamic State from countries around the world has been widely reported on. European countries especially fear an influx of returning citizens who could use their combat experience in Syria or Iraq to carry out domestic terror attacks.
Some 10 Israeli-Arab citizens have left the country to join the Islamic State, a Shin Bet security service source said in September, according to an Israel Hayom report.
In May, Idris Abu Alqayan, 23, a Bedouin Israeli citizen from the Negev, was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and aiding an unlawful exit from the country after he allegedly helped two family members leave Israel for Syria to join the Islamic State.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terror Information Center released a report in May that said there were some 5,000 foreign Arab fighters waging war in Syria and that they constitute “the spine” of extremist organizations such Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State.
“The phenomenon is dangerous because all those who enter that arena receive military training and are exposed to extremist global jihad ideology, and there is the risk that they will be used, at the end of the day, to carry out terror attacks against the State of Israel,” the Shin Bet said.
Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.