21 July 2018
Said Musallam shows photographs of his son Muhammad in his home in East Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters
Said Musallam shows photographs of his son Muhammad in his home in East Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters

Islamic State claims to have captured Mossad spy

Islamic State said it was holding an Israeli Arab who had posed as a foreign fighter in order to spy for Mossad.

But the militants’ claim was denied by Israel and by the man’s family, who said he had been kidnapped, Reuters reported.

In an interview published by the Islamist group’s online magazine Dabiq, Muhammad Musallam, 19, said he had joined the insurgents in Syria in order to report to the Israelis on its weapons caches, bases and Palestinian recruits.

After his conduct aroused the suspicion of Islamic State commanders, Musallam was quoted as saying, he broke cover by phoning his father in East Jerusalem, leading to his capture.

“I say to all those who want to spy on the Islamic State, don’t think that you’re so smart and that you can deceive the Islamic State. You won’t succeed at all,” the English-language website quoted him as saying.

“Stay away from this path. Stay away from helping the Jews and the murtaddin [apostates]. Follow the right path.”

Musallam’s father, Said, denied his son was a spy, noting that he went missing while traveling as a tourist to Turkey. Muhammad then phoned home, saying he had been abducted to neighboring Syria but could buy his way out, his father said.

“He said, ‘Dad, I need US$200 or US$300 so they will let me go,’” Said Musallam told Reuters. Before he could send the money, he said, another man phoned to inform him Muhammad had escaped his captors but had been seized by Islamic State.

An Israeli security official said Musallam traveled to Turkey on Oct. 24 in order to fight for Islamic State in Syria.

“He went on his own initiative, without his family’s knowledge,” the official told the news agency. Asked whether his statement constituted a denial that Musallam was an Israeli spy, the official said: “You can understand it that way, yes.”

Worried that members of its 20-percent Arab minority might travel to Syria or Iraq to join Islamist insurgent groups and then return radicalized and battle-ready, Israel has stepped up monitoring and prosecution of suspected would-be volunteers.

Turkey draws many Israeli Arab holidaymakers. It is also a major conduit for foreigners who slip across the border to help insurgents trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Muhammad Musallam worked as an Israeli firefighter, his family said. The news agency quoted an unnamed friend of his as saying that Musallam had posted pro-Islamic State messages on social media. 

Meanwhile, Jordanian air force jets bombed hideouts of Islamic State militants in Syria on Thursday, resuming the intensified raids that it first launched last week in retaliation for the killing of a pilot.

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