Family of Palestinian Man Killed by ISIS Says He Wasn’t Spying for Israel
The family of a Palestinian man purportedly killed by Islamic State militants in Syria said Wednesday that he was not a spy for Israel.
A video released Tuesday showed Mohamed Musallam, 20, wearing the disturbingly familiar orange jumpsuit of an Islamic State captive. He was shown admitting under obvious duress that he was an informer for Israeli intelligence before he was shot in the head by a young boy. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, alleged that he had been sent to Syria “as an agent for the Israeli Mossad” to gather information on the group.
Mohamed Musallam’s father, Said, and an older brother, Ahmed, insisted that he was not sent by Israel, though they could not say why Mohamed, whom they described as an irreligious, chain-smoking volunteer firefighter, joined the Islamic State in October.
“It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true at all,” said Ahmed Musallam, 29, sitting in the cramped bedroom he shared with his brother and two other siblings in their family’s small East Jerusalem apartment.
In the 13-and-a-half-minute video released by the Islamic State, Mohamed Musallam said that his father and another brother, Ismail, 27, urged him to assist the Israeli intelligence agency. He said his handler sent him to Syria to join the Islamic State, locate its bases and weaponry, and identify other Palestinians fighting for the group.
“I asked my father, Said Ismail Musallam, and my brother, Ismail Said Musallam, and they encouraged me,” Mohamed Musallam said in the video. “And then I knew they were both spies,” he added.
Ahmed Musallam said that when he learned his brother was fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, their father “fell on the ground.”
“He was shocked,” he said. “It wasn’t a response of a man who had sent his son to Syria. It was the response of a father who has lost his son.”
Ahmed and his father suggested that Mohamed Musallam was most likely lured by Islamic State recruiters or brainwashed by other Palestinians in their East Jerusalem neighborhood who were loyal to the group’s philosophy.
“They promised him girls and money,” his father said.
The Musallam family lives in a working-class Israeli area of East Jerusalem, in the Neve Yaakov settlement, one of a dozen Jewish communities established in territory seized from Jordan in 1967. The family took on Israeli citizenship, something only about 5 percent of Jerusalem’s 300,000 Palestinian residents do. Mohamed Musallam’s brother, Ismail, served in an Israeli Army unit of Bedouin trackers, also unusual for a Palestinian, and worked for three years for the Israeli police force.
Many Palestinians often suspect Arabs who live in Israeli settlements and accept Israeli citizenship of collaboration with a government they view as an occupying force, lending popular credence to the allegation that Mohamed Musallam was a spy for Israel. But whether he was a militant for the Islamic State or an informer for Israel, his family feels the public shame.
“When people see that, when they see photos of Ismail in a uniform, and that we live among Jews, they get the idea that we are spies, and Jews, and that we work with Mossad,” Ahmed Musallam said. “But it’s not true.”