Photo Credit: ISA / Shin Bet
Wisam and Sabrin Zabeidat of Sakhnin, accused of visiting the enemy to join ISIS.

by Ilana Messika The District Attorney in the Northern District Court in Haifa filed indictments Thursday against an Arab-Israeli couple accused of visiting an enemy country and joining the ISIS (Da’esh) terrorist organization.

Wisam and Sabrin Zabeidat of the northern Galilee community of Sakhnin were detained at Ben Gurion International Airport on September 22 upon their return from Iraq with their three children.

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Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) investigators said that prior to their departure on a family holiday in June 2015, the couple watched ISIS videos and TV programs. After traveling to Romania with their children, they proceeded to Turkey by car, where a resident of the Israeli Arab village of Umm al-Fahm helped smuggle the family across the Turkish border with Syria.

The family was taken by ISIS near the Syria-Turkey border and their Israeli passports confiscated. Wisam Zabeidat was separated from his family and sent to Iraq, where he received both military training and religious indoctrination about the ideology of ISIS. Following his training, Wisam took part in operational activities of ISIS such as defending the Islamic State facilities and raids on Iraqi army positions. During one raid, he injured his leg and was treated at a hospital in Mosul.

The investigation also revealed details about unsanitary living conditions under ISIS rule. The family lived in crowded homes, often with patients suffering a variety of serious diseases, and often without access to water, electricity, food or medical care. According to reports, the children were scheduled to begin military training at the age of eight.

On June 2016, a year after their departure, the couple decided to return to Israel due to worsening conditions in Iraq. They tried to cross the border into Turkey several times and by various methods, made difficult by the extensive smuggling network that controls the passages. During one attempt they were fired upon by both the Turkish army and ISIS. Eventually, the family made it back to Turkey, but they were arrested by Turkish police and sent to a detention camp before being released after several days. The family then flew to Ben Gurion International Airport, where they were arrested upon arrival.

Statistics released in July 2016 show that many Israeli Arabs have been arrested for attempting to join the Islamic State (ISIS / Da’esh) terrorist group. More than 40 Israeli citizens have joined ISIS in the last two years, according to the Shin Bet intelligence agency, and the group has had important influence on several terror attacks in Israel in recent months. For example, the two Palestinian Authority Arab cousins who carried out a shooting attack at the Tel Aviv Sarona market were inspired by ISIS, although they had not apparently received any direct assistance or operational guidance from the group.

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