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Hamas informer in Israel on lecture tour

The son of a Hamas founder who renounced his father's militant group to spy for Israel has returned to the Jewish state on a pro-Israel lecture tour, an Israeli official said Thursday.

Mosab Yousef was invited by Druse Arab lawmaker Ayoob Kara, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party.

Kara's spokesman, Mendi Safadi, said Yousef will be in Israel nearly a month lecturing at universities and other places. He will also hold a news conference at Israel's parliament next week. He was unavailable for comment Thursday. Hamas officials declined comment.

Yousef published a shocking autobiography, "Son of Hamas," two years ago in which he described his decade of service as a secret Israeli agent. He claims to have prevented dozens of suicide attacks and helped Israel to hunt down militants including his father. Hamas considers him a traitor, and his father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, who is imprisoned in Israel, has disowned him.

"My father, like many Hamas leaders, is ignorant of simply the historic right of the Israeli nation," Mosab Yousef told Israel TV Thursday. "I love Israeli people," he added.

Yousef moved to California in 2007 and converted from Islam to Christianity.

This is Yousef's first trip to Israel since he left for the U.S., Safadi said. The trip got off to a rocky start because he arrived without a visa and was detained at the airport for hours while authorities tried to sort out who he was, he added.

In his memoir, Yousef described growing up hating Israel and admiring the violently anti-Israel militant group his father helped found more than two decades ago. Israeli forces imprisoned him in 1996 after he bought weapons, but he says he became disillusioned with Hamas while in prison.

He began working with Israel's Shin Bet security service, which routinely tries to recruit Palestinians of all factions as informers, including those in prisons, by using blackmail or promising benefits, such as work or travel permits.

He claims he was considered one of the Shin Bet's most valuable assets and was dubbed "The Green Prince," a reference to his Hamas pedigree and the Islamists' signature green color.

The U.S. granted him temporary asylum in 2010 after abruptly dropping concerns he was a terrorist threat.

The Israeli government has not commented on Yousef's claims, though members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee wrote to him to thank him for his work for Shin Bet.

Gonen Ben-Itzhak, a retired Israeli intelligence officer who once handled Yousef, traveled from Israel to testify on his behalf at the U.S. asylum hearing, but the judge had made his ruling before Itzhak took the stand.