Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor, hold flags of Jebhat al-Nusra as they take part in a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013
Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor, hold flags of Jebhat al-Nusra as they take part in a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. © Zac Baillie - AFP/File
Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor, hold flags of Jebhat al-Nusra as they take part in a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013
AFP
Last updated: October 20, 2013

Israeli Arab thought dead in Syria conflict calls home

An Israeli Arab reported killed last month fighting for a jihadist group in Syria, phoned home on Saturday to say he was alive and well, his father said.

"My son called me around 11.00 am," Zaki Ighbariya told AFP. "He said that he and two friends... who went with him are alive and well."

He said that his son Muayyed answered personal questions and convinced the family that it was really him, but did not say where he was.

Muayyed left his village near the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm and crossed into Syria through Turkey about two months ago, his family said.

In September his relatives received reports that Muayyed had been killed in battle, but did not say who had told them.

"We were happy to think that he died a martyr, because that was his mission," Zaki Ighbariya said on Saturday.

"Today we are happy once again because he is alive."

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, Israeli police have arrested at least three other Arab citizens who went to fight against President Bashar al-Assad's forces for "leaving the country illegally and travelling to a hostile state."

Like Muayyed Ighbariya, they allegedly joined the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, and two of those arrested were sentenced in August to 19 months in prison.

The Israeli Arab community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948. Today they and their descendants number around 1.3 million out of a total Israeli population of eight million.

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