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Israel indicts woman who crossed into Syria illegally

A young Israeli woman who illegally crossed into Syria and was returned in a prisoner exchange last month was yesterday charged by Israel with the crime of violating state security.

Following her return to Israel last month when she was released by Syrian authorities as part of a Russia-brokered deal, the woman – who is in her twenties and whose identity has been kept confidential – told interrogators that she had crossed the border purely for “adventure”.

Under Israeli law, however, citizens are forbidden from crossing into enemy states, of which Syria is officially one. Citizens of enemy states are also forbidden from crossing into Israel, and Israelis are prohibited from doing business with any of those states without special government permission.

According to Anat Yaari and Iyad Azzam, the attorneys who represent the woman, her case should not warrant a charge as it did not truly violate state security. “In contrast to past cases in which there was a violation of state security and no indictment was filed against people who crossed the border, in this case, it is clear to all that the young woman did not harm anyone and had no intention of harming state security,” they said in a statement before the ruling.

They added: “It is therefore very puzzling that precisely against a young woman with no criminal record who comes from a complex background they chose to file an indictment.”

Syria was not the woman’s first flirt with adventure to forbidden borders, as according to Israeli authorities, she twice attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in previous years, once by land and the other by the sea on a makeshift raft. She also tried to cross into Jordan once. All of those previous attempts, however, ended with her being captured by the Israeli military or police.

She was even allegedly close to entering Lebanon recently, with a pro-Hezbollah journalist having spotted her near the border in an SUV in October last year.

Israeli authorities believe that her illegal trip into Syria and all her previous attempts were a part of an obsession with or sympathy for Arab communities, as she had frequently visited Palestinian towns and villages in the occupied West Bank.