Woman who sparked national drama by crossing into Syria is charged in court

Indictment includes charge of illegally exiting country; woman was returned in a Russia-brokered deal, has reportedly been mentally unwell in the past

The Israeli woman who crossed into Syria and was returned in a deal brokered by Russia, in a photo shown by Channel 12 on February 20, 2021. (Channel 12 screenshot)
The Israeli woman who crossed into Syria and was returned in a deal brokered by Russia, in a photo shown by Channel 12 on February 20, 2021. (Channel 12 screenshot)

An Israeli woman who walked across the border into Syria in early February and was returned later that month after a flurry of international negotiations was indicted for her actions Sunday at the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court.

The contents of the indictment were partially barred from publication, but the charges include illegally exiting the country.

The woman, whose identity is barred from publication, has reportedly suffered from mental ill-health in the past.

She is reported to be a 25-year-old from Modiin Illit who left the ultra-Orthodox community. It is unclear why she entered Syria. She apparently crossed at a less-monitored part of the border fence, on foot and on her own.

The Axios news site, citing Israeli officials, has said the woman studied Arabic and in the past had been prevented from crossing the southern border into the Gaza Strip.

The woman was returned to Israel via Russia on February 19, in a deal brokered by Moscow. As part of the deal, Israel released several Syrian nationals in its custody and reportedly financed the purchase of $1.2 million worth of Russian-made COVID-19 vaccines for Syrian use.

Illustrative: Part of the fence separating northern Israel from Syria and Jordan, in the Golan Heights, Northern Israel, on March 03, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

After the woman was returned, she reportedly told Israeli investigators that she had been “seeking adventure.” According to Channel 12, she did not apologize or express regret for the trip. Investigators determined that she did not cooperate with any enemy entities while in Syria.

Her Facebook page shows her traveling often inside Israel, including in several Arab areas, and in the West Bank. In one post, she wrote, “I don’t recognize your lines, either green or blue or purple, and not even a red line will stop me.”

According to Israeli authorities, the woman had twice tried to enter the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip — once by land and once on a makeshift raft — as well as once attempting to cross into Jordan illegally. All three times she was captured by either the military or the police.

According to the Haaretz news site, the woman’s public defenders said of the indictment Sunday: “It’s clear to all that the young woman did not harm — and did not intend to harm — national security. And so, it’s very odd that [authorities] chose to specifically indict a young woman with no criminal record who is dealing with a complex background. After we study the investigation material we will consider our next legal steps.”

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