Family of Jerusalem teen executed by ISIS says he was seduced with lies and empty promises.
As a video of their son played on their big-screen television, moments before it showed an armed child shooting him dead, Muhammad Said Musallam’s mother, Hind, averted her eyes. His father, Said, stared icily at the screen.
Sitting in the wood-paneled family room of their modest apartment in Jerusalem’s primarily Jewish Neveh Ya’acov neighborhood on Wednesday, Said watched as his son, clad in an orange jumpsuit, stated that he was an Israeli spy.
The video, released on Tuesday, shows the 19-year-old kneeling in an empty field, with a man and a boy brandishing a pistol standing behind him. The boy, wearing camouflage fatigues, shoots Muhammad in the head, then fires three more rounds into his lifeless body.
The man praises the child in French as one of the “cubs of the caliphate,” before threatening Israel.
French media have since identified the man as Sabri Essid – the reported half-brother of Mohamed Merah, who killed a rabbi and three children at a French Jewish school, as well as three French soldiers, in March 2012.
According to a French police source, officials in France are investigating whether the child in the video has ties to the al-Qaida-inspired Merah as well. The source told Reuters that the intelligence service believed the French-speaking fighter was Essid, and that officials were trying to determine whether the child was his son.
As Muhammad’s parents waited for the 13-minute video to conclude on Wednesday, their three other sons and a dozen other family members and friends tried in vain to comfort them.
“Muhammad learned about Islamic State on Facebook,” said his older brother Ahmad, 29, while his father continued to stare at the screen, and his mother quietly wept. “They said they’d give him money, a car, a house, a girl. He decided to go to Syria in October to join them.”
According to Ahmad, Muhammad flew to Turkey in October. Two weeks later, his brother informed him on Facebook that he was with Islamic State in Syria.
“He said they told him he had to get married and then fight,” Ahmad said. “He thought the war would be over in three or four months.”
However, after realizing that the conflict would not end soon and that the promises of riches were a lie, Muhammad called his parents two months ago on Skype to say he wanted to return to Israel, his brother recounted.
“He was very sad and wanted to come back,” Ahmad said. “When they [Islamic State] saw he had become afraid and wanted to come home, they became suspicious and claimed he was a spy. The story about the Mossad is not true.”
After finally turning away from the television, Said, a veteran bus driver with Egged, said his son had been conned.
“I understood from my son that Islamic State lied to him,” he said.
“I will sacrifice myself and my three other sons to go to war and fight against Islamic State with Israel. The leader of Islamic State will die the way my son died. His death is coming.”
His son had been killed, Said said, because he knew too much.
“Muhammad was knowledgeable about Islamic State – the maps, territories, locations, everything,” he said. “The reason Islamic State was scared was because if he came back to Israel, he could tell the Mossad the information and destroy them because he knew everything.”
Despite his son’s decision to join the terrorist organization, Said emphasized that he and his family stood with Israel.
“My loyalty is to Israel, because my family lives in Jewish neighborhoods and no one gives us any trouble or complications,” he said.
“We believe that we are family. We have the same father, Abraham.”
Asked what he would say to his son if he had one last chance, Said sat quietly for a moment.
“I would tell him to rest in peace,” he said. “There is nothing left to say.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
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