Israeli Arab paraglides into Syria 'to join rebel group'

The unidentified 23-year-old flew into Syrian airspace on Saturday in what the Israeli Defence Force say was an 'intentional crossing' 

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 25 October 2015 17:58 GMT
Israeli soldiers searching for the paraglider in Golan Heights on Saturday
Israeli soldiers searching for the paraglider in Golan Heights on Saturday (EPA)

A paraglider sparked a manhunt on the Israeli border after flying into Syria to reportedly join a rebel group in the middle of the night.

Military officials said the unnamed 23-year-old man from the predominantly Arab town of Jaljulia in Israel used the paraglider to cross the border on Saturday.

It was originally reported that the man could have been accidentally knocked into Syrian airspace by strong winds but the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) later tweeted that they now believe the it was intentional.

The IDF dropped illumination flares around the Golan Heights overnight to attempt to find the man before calling off the searches on Sunday.

According to Israeli news website, YNet News, the IDF said they did not know which organisation the man was trying to join.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the man’s citizenship would be revoked as part of their policy to combat militants.

He told Cabinet members at the start of their regular Sunday session: "Whoever joins the enemy’s ranks to fight Israel will not be an Israeli citizen".

A minister from Mr Netanyahu’s right wing Likud party, Ofir Akunis, told the reporters the man had "crossed the border into join Isis forces".

Israel has remained publicly neutral during the Syrian Civil War, which is now in its fourth year, over fears that their old enemy Bashar al-Assad could be replaced by a more openly hostile Islamist regime.

But it has banned travel to the war torn country by its citizens over security fears.

An official from Israel’s security service, Shin Bet, said that more than 40 Israeli Arabs and East Jerusalem Palestinians have left to join Isis in Syria or Iraq.

Two videos purportedly by Isis and circulated on social media last week called for an escalation in the Palestinian violence, which has been fuelled in part by Muslim anger at stepped-up visits by Jews to a contested Jerusalem holy site.

Recent violence has killed more than 52 Palestinians and nine Israelis.

In one of the videos, a masked gunman speaking Hebrew with an Arabic accent threatened Israelis with all-out religious war.

Additional reporting by agencies

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