An Arab Israeli has been sentenced to 15 months in prison after being convicted of travelling to Syria and receiving training with the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front.
According to the court ruling seen by AFP on Tuesday, Abdel Kader al-Taleh, 27, from the Arab village of Taibe in northern Israel, was convicted of “entering an enemy territory” and “illegal training for combat.”
But charges of “contact with a foreign agent” were dropped as part of a plea bargain, the ruling said.
He was arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service when he returned from Syria in July 2013.
According to the indictment, Taleh was approached by Al-Qaeda sympathisers while he was studying pharmacology in Jordan in 2010-2011. In July last year, he travelled to Turkey and from there crossed into northern Syria.
There he made contact with Al-Nusra activists and spent three days in one of their training camps, where he received instruction in the use of weapons. But he decided not to stay and ended up going home.
In her ruling, Judge Shira Ben Shlomo noted the danger inherent in Arab Israelis volunteering for jihadist groups in Syria, where they “receive ideological and military training which could then be used for carrying out attacks on Israeli targets”.
She also flagged the danger of Arab Israeli volunteers “sharing information” with Islamist rebels fighting the Syrian government.
Last month, the privately-run Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre estimated that about 20 Arab Israelis had joined the rebels in Syria, as well as 30 Palestinians from Gaza and a handful from the West Bank.
Since the Syrian conflict erupted almost three years ago, Israeli security forces have arrested at least three Arab citizens on suspicion of fighting in Syria. Two were convicted last August and sentenced to 19 months in prison.
The Israeli Arab community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948. Today, they and their descendants number around 1.3 million out of a total Israeli population of eight million.