Israel Worried that Syrian Intelligence Agencies Could Recruit Arab Israelis
Israel's security organizations are concerned about the possibility that Syrian intelligence services could recruit visiting Arab Israelis, according to Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday.
The visits are being organized by Arab-Israeli MK Azmi Bishara in an effort to reunite family members, some of whom have not met for decades.
Many of those participating in the visits are elderly.
For his part, Bishara rejected the concerns voiced by Israel and said that "experience shows that those who want to join these organizations [Syrian intelligence] do not need to travel to Damascus for that, and will certainly not do so in an open way through the visits which my office organizes."
He noted that in the past, both “Jewish and Arab Israelis were recruited by Syrian intelligence in meetings they held with Syrian operatives in Europe.”
The meetings are considered illegal under Israeli law and are being investigated by the State Prosecutor's office.
Since last September, some 500 Israeli Arabs have traveled to Syria in groups.
The latest such visit took place on May 24 and another group is planning to leave for Syria soon, said Haaretz.
The trip to Syria is made through Jordan, without any of those in the group requesting the necessary permit from the Israeli Interior Ministry.
In Jordan, those traveling to Syria receive the necessary documentation, which Bishara organizes, and on which there is no mention that they are Israeli citizens.
The police so far have questioned 40 families who have taken part in the visits.
The Israeli security services do not suspect that MK Bishara is purposely organizing meetings between the visitors and Syrian agents, said Haaretz. However, there is growing concern that the visits are being used to gather information on Israel and also recruit agents.
Since the start of the year, some 30 Israeli Arabs have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in hostile activities, said Haaretz – Albawaba.com
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