Last February, Hechmat Matzrawa, 29, of Taibe,
left Israel for Syria, with the intention of joining up with rebels fighting forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He spent a week with the rebels,
expressing a desire to participate in military maneuvers, assisting in establishing a military camp, and training with weapons. This is described in the indictment filed against him on Wednesday. The prosecutor’s office has charged Matzrawa with contact with an enemy agent, illegal exit from the country, and forbidden military activity. He denies the charges.
In a joint operation of the Shin Bet and the Central Unit of the Police Central District, Matzrawa was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on March 19, upon his return to Israel. The Shin Bet
said that rebels questioned him regarding Israel and the IDF, with most of the questions centering on types of weapons used by the IDF and questions regarding the Dimona reactor.
The indictment which was filed in Lod District Court by attorney Roy Reiss of the Central District Prosecutor’s Office, claimed that the young man from Taibe snuck into Syria via the border with Turkey, motivated by ideology and in order to track down his brother who had apparently snuck into Syria himself.
It was also reported that “the accused was asked by the rebels to carry out a suicide attack on the border with Israel and refused, and he knew the group was interested in carrying out an attack against Israel,
but he did not cut ties with them.”
According to the indictment, “On the 17 of March, when the limited military activity in the area did not meet his combat expectations, and since he had not found his brother, and due to pressure from family members in Israel, he left the rebel unit and returned to the border with Turkey.
Two days later, he flew back to Israel and was arrested.
‘My son did not make any contact with rebels,” said Otman Matzrawa, father of the accused, to Ynet. “The indictment is a baseless.”
Otman said that his son traveled to Turkey without telling any other family members, in order to “find his brother who had been in Syria
for several months. It is natural that someone from the family would want to look for my son, when no one knows anything about his whereabouts.” The father added, “My son is a clean and respectable person, on the day that he arrived in Turkey, he called us and said that he had begun searching for his brother and had paid money to people with the goal of helping in the search. He did not tell us that he had made contact with rebels.”
Rebel soldier in battle (Photo: Reuters)
Otman said that after a few days, his son called again, saying that he had run out of money.
He asked that they send him $700 via bank transfer so that he could return to Israel. “We sent the money and when he returned, he was arrested. It seems the Shin Bet wants to punish my son after not succeeding in returning my second son who is missing in Syria. I do not know what they will do to my second son, should he return.”
Otman said that his family is “very tense, we do not know how to deal with this. We ask for our son to be released, he did not make any mistakes, and he did not do or think to do anything that will threaten the security
of the state of Israel.”
“My client denies the charges in the indictment,” attorney Halal Jabad said to Ynet. “His goal was to find information on his brother, who has been missing for 6 months and he and no intention of hurting the security of Israel.” He added, “The accused went into Syrian territory
on foot and met some rebels, they wanted to recruit him, he said he was not interested, that he was there with the goal of finding his brother and bringing him back to Israel.”
The prosecutor filed a request to extend the remand of the accused through the end of proceedings against him because they believe he will try to repeat his actions.
Attorney Reiss said, “The serious charges which stand against Matzrawa on the basis of his prior communication with the rebels in Syria, will serve as a strong motivation for him to connect with them again. Additionally, they are part of what allows him to complete his original plan, and evade the judicial system.”
The Shin Bet said they view the travel of Israeli Arabs to Syria as a dangerous
phenomena to the security of the state. This puts them in the Syrian front, which exposes them to global jihad activists. When Israeli Arabs are exposed to this anti-Israel extremism, there is a danger that they will be taken advantage of by terror organizations
Hassan Shaalan contributed to this report.
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