Jerusalem: An Arab Israeli has crossed into Syria using a paraglider with the apparent goal of joining rebel fighters there, the Israeli army said today.
“A surveillance post identified an Israeli civilian entering Syrian territory using a paraglider” late yesterday, an army statement read.
“The preliminary review indicates that the civilian that entered is a resident of Jaljulia,” an Arab town in central Israel.
A military spokeswoman told AFP the army was “examining the possibility he had entered Syria in order to join rebels.”
The army said the paraglider took off from the southern section of the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, adjacent to southern Syria.
It challenged speculation that he may have been blown off-course and crossed the border inadvertantly.
“Initial investigation suggests Israeli-Arab crossed intentionally,” a military statement on Twitter said.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted members of the unidentified man’s family as saying they received an anonymous phone call yesterday saying that he was unharmed.
“The uncle said the young man’s father had received a phone call about an hour after an (army) observation post spotted the paraglider, in which he was told, ‘Your son is fine. He’s with us. Don’t worry,’ before the call was cut off,” the paper reported.
It said that the family had noticed the man becoming more intensely religious of late.
“He started becoming more religious. He started praying every morning in the mosque,” it quoted the uncle — who said he last saw the young man on Friday — as saying.
“I told him that he’s 23 now and the best thing he should do is get married and have children and raise a family.”
The Al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, which is supportive of the Islamic State group and active in the Daraa area in south Syria, addressed rumours circulating about the flight on yesterday night, stating on its Facebook page it had not taken an Israeli captive.
Speaking at the start of his today cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would be taking measures to strip the man of his Israeli citizenship.
“Yesterday an Israeli citizen crossed our border in the Golan Heights into Syria to join the ranks of the enemy,” he said.
“We will act to nullify his citizenship. That is what is done in any such case. Whoever joins the ranks of the enemy to fight against Israel, will not be an Israeli citizen.