Pro-Palestinian Israeli arrested in Egypt ordered held for 15 more days

Anti-Zionist activist is under investigation for allegedly trying to reach the Gaza Strip through Sinai

Andre Pshenichnikov (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Andre Pshenichnikov (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)

Egyptian security officials on Tuesday said a 24-year-old Israeli national held since Friday has been ordered detained for 15 more days for investigation into his illegal entry from Israel into the Sinai Peninsula.

The arrest of Andre Pshenichnikov was announced Monday.

The security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said he is under investigation in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for allegedly trying to reach the Gaza Strip through Sinai. They identified him as Andrew Yaacoub Cheteko.

Earlier this year, Pshenichnikov, who immigrated with his family from Tajikistan 13 years ago, caused a stir when he declared that he wished to renounce his Israeli citizenship and adopt Palestinian citizenship.

“I hate Zionism,” he told the Associated Press in June. “I want to be part of the Palestinian resistance.”

On Monday unnamed Egyptian security officials said Pshenichnikov was stopped after filming security installations in Sinai and asking drivers for information.

Pshenichnikov told his girlfriend, who spoke to The Times of Israel on Monday, that he was traveling to Egypt to meet French friends he had met in Paris earlier this year. He called his family on Saturday to inform them that he’d been arrested, but as of Monday they were not sure of his whereabouts. His girlfriend said he had been moved from one detention facility to another, and suggested that he may have been held in Rafah and Port Said.

Svetlana Pshenichnikov, Andre’s mother, told Army Radio that he’d received a visa to enter Egypt last week, but that he’d encountered “a problem with his documents” and was arrested in Egypt.

“They didn’t let us speak much,” she said. “We called the number back that he’d called us from and they said it was not Taba, but Rafah. Now we don’t know what’s happening with him and we can’t speak to him.” Taba is on the Egyptian-Israeli border and would be the logical location for someone trying to enter Egypt from Israellegally; Rafah is on Egyptian-Gazan border.

According to Pshenichnikov’s girlfriend, he attempted to enter Egypt last Monday, but Israeli authorities detained him until Thursday — for what she said was no reason. After his release from Israeli detention, he crossed into Egypt and was arrested by the Egyptian police.

Pshenichnikov’s mother said she wasn’t even sure that he was arrested by the police, but that “it could be that he’s [held] by terrorists.”

“I am afraid,” she said. “Perhaps we’ll fly there and find him.”

The Foreign Ministry confirmed that an Israeli was under arrest in Egypt, but could not confirm his identity, and said the matter was under investigation. It said it was communicating with Egyptian authorities, who were being cooperative.

Pshenichnikov, who served in the IDF for three years, began to question Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians during or after his military service. In April, he moved to the Deheishe refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem and worked as a waiter in a Bethlehem hotel and as a construction worker in the camp.

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