The Cable

Islamic State Claims Killing of an Israeli Hostage

The militant group says Muhammad Musallam was working for Israeli intelligence, but his family says he was a foreign fighter who wanted to escape.

The parents of Arab-Israeli Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam sit next to a framed portrait of their son, who is captured by the Islamic State (IS) group allegedly for spying for Israel's Mossad foreign intelligence agency, on February 13, 2015 at the family's home in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Neve-Yaacov. Musallam's father said his son left Israel to join jihadists in Syria and the Islamic State group claimed in the latest issue of its online English magazine "Dabiq" that they were holding Muhammed for being an Israeli spy . AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

A chilling new video from the Islamic State purports to show a child soldier killing a young Israeli man who, the militant group claims, was sent to infiltrate the group by the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.

The family of 19-year-old Muhammad Musallam says he was merely trying to escape the Islamic State’s clutches.

Last month, the Islamic State said it had captured Musallam, an Israeli Arab from Jerusalem. In its English-language online magazine, Dabiq, the militant group posted a purported “interview” with Musallam that claimed he admitted to being in Syria to spy for the Israeli government.

The interview quotes Musallam as saying he was recruited to join the Mossad by a neighbor who was a police officer. But Musallam’s parents have said he went to Syria in October to join the Islamic State after being recruited online.

His father told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that after disappearing from home, his son sent an email saying he “wanted to be a martyr and he was giving up everything in his life and his family.” In January, a man approached the family to tell it that Musallam had been caught trying to leave Syria and was being held in an Islamic State prison, according to the Haaretz report.

The video released Tuesday, March 10, starts with an interview with a man identified as Musallam who describes how he was recruited and trained by the Mossad. The video then moves outside, where Musallam is seen kneeling, wearing an orange jumpsuit. A young boy is shown standing behind him with an older fighter, both of them dressed in camouflage fatigues.

The older fighter speaks in French and calls the boy a “young lion.” He addresses his speech to the Jews and tells them he is going to kill the “evil apostate spy” who was sent by the “foolish Mossad” to spy on the Islamic State.

When the older fighter finishes his speech, the young boy faces Musallam, points the gun at his face, and fires once. After Musallam falls to the ground, the child shoots him three more times and yells “Allahu akbar,” according to a Reuters report.

It is the second known time that the Islamic State has used a young boy to carry out one of its executions. In January, the group released a video in which a Kazakh boy calmly shoots two men after they admit — at gunpoint — that they are Russian agents.

A recent report from the Washington Post said the Islamic State is increasingly relying on recruitment of children because they are more vulnerable to its propaganda.

The increased use of child soldiers is one piece of evidence of the group’s fraying, according to the Post report. Battlefield setbacks, defections, and growing tensions between local and foreign fighters are also starting to tear apart the group from within.

Photo credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Kate Brannen is deputy managing editor at Just Security and a contributor to Foreign Policy, where she previously worked as a senior reporter. Twitter: @K8brannen

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