Israeli family who joined ISIS returns from Iraq, are indicted
Wissam and Sabrin Zbeidat of Sakhnin took their three young children and joined ISIS in 2015; the father participated in raids on the Iraqi Army with the terrorist organization, was wounded in one; the couple are charged with multiple crimes.
The Haifa District Attorney filed an indictment on Thursday at the Haifa District Court against Wissam and Sabrin Zbeidat of Sakhnin for having joined ISIS with their three children last year. The family had been living in Syria and in Iraq and recently returned to Israel.
Wissam admitted to the charge, saying "Yes, I was in Mosul, and I joined ISIS. I decided to return to Israel without anyone pressuring me." He allegedly participated in raids against the Iraqi Army, and his leg was injured in the fighting.
According to a statement from the Shin Bet, an investigation into the couple revealed that they were exposed to ISIS films and other content that influenced before they left the country.
According to relatives, the couple and their 4- and 6-year-old girls and 8-year-old boy left Israel in 2015 for Romania in order to attend a graduation ceremony for a family member who finished their studies. After arriving in Romania, they decided to enter Turkey and attempted to cross illegally into Syria. After their family learned of their intentions, they flew to Turkey to try and persuade them to return to Israel, but were unsuccessful.
In Turkey, they used Facebook to contact a resident of Um al-Fahm who had himself joined ISIS in 2013. He put them in contact with smugglers who aided them in crossing the border into Syria.
The Shin Bet's statement also stated that the family was received by ISIS near the border where their Israeli passports were taken from them, and they were brought to Rakka. Wissam was separated from his family and sent to a camp in Iraq where ISIS gave him training and religious and ideological lessons. He was then transferred to a military camp for combat training, which included marksmanship on rifles and RPG-launchers.
Wissam was then sent to operational activity that included guarding ISIS facilities near combat zones and later raids on Iraqi Army positions. He was hospitalized after his leg was injured in one such raid.
His family later joined him in Iraq, allegedly living in extremely poor, crowded conditions, in houses without water or electricity and without access to proper medical care. The Zbeidat children apparently were deprived of an education for an extended period and stayed with other children. Earlier this year, the family went through heavy bombing in their place of residence. Following that, the children developed anxiety.
The Shin Bet investigation also revealed details of life under ISIS, a regime that cuts off body parts as punishment. Its "morality police" enforces a strict dress code on woman and men's beards.
Due to the rough conditions in Mosul, the family decided to return to Israel this year. They asked for help from relatives who had to pay large amounts of money to border smugglers and others to facilitate the Zbeidats' return to Israel.
They tried to cross the Syrian–Turkish border multiple times. In one attempt, they drugged one of their daughters to prevent her from making noise that would give them away. During some of those attempts, Turkish soldiers and ISIS fighters opened fire on them.
After having crossed the border into Turkey, the couple were arrested by the local police and placed in a detention facility. A few days later, they were released and then arrested on their return to Israel. The indictment accuses the couple of contacting a foreign agent, illegally exiting the country, belonging to an unlawful organization, providing services to an unlawful association, membership in a terrorist organization and forbidden military training.
A relative of Sabrin said, "The mother and the girls didn't want to sneak into Syria and join a terrorist organization. She never thought that she'd be in a place like that. Unfortunately, the husband is the one who insisted and took them against their will. I hope that the court will take her into consideration and release her to her home. She doesn't deserve any punishment. Her place needs to be at home together with her daughters who are waiting for her. The hard days and danger to life that she went through are enough."
He added, "If we had known that the husband intended to enter Syria, we wouldn't have allowed him to travel with the mother and the girls."
Since ISIS's inception, some 40 Israeli citizens have joined the extremist group. Five of those have been killed.