Israeli officials announced on Wednesday that it had stopped an al-Qaeda linked plot to attack a series of locations across the country, including the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. According to Israel's sources, the plot might have some direct connection to Ayman Al-Zawahri, the current figurehead of al-Qaeda. Israeli law enforcement officials arrested three Palestinians allegedly recruited online by the terrorist organization to carry out the bombings.
In addition to the U.S. Embassy compound, Israel believes the group also planned attacks on the International Convention Center in Jerusalem and on a bus line that runs between Jerusalem and a West Bank Jewish settlement. So far, the U.S. State Department has had little to say on the alleged plot, except that the department was "still looking" at the Israeli evidence. Speaking to CNN, spokesperson Marie Harf added, "I don't have reason to believe it's not true. I just don't have independent verification."
Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency announced the arrests, which took place in December. According to what they've revealed about the agency's subsequent interviews with the suspects, it sounds like one of the recruits was getting ready to head to Syria to plan the attacks. Their recruiter used the name "Arib al-Sham," which is probably a pseudonym. It translates to "outstanding one from Syria." Ha'aretz has more about the alleged plot:
According to the plan [suspect Iyad] Abu Sa’ara and al-Sham discussed, three of the suicide terrorists would detonate themselves during a conference or performance at the International Convention Center, and also attempt to strike at rescue personnel. Then Abu Sa’ara was to arrive in the truck and detonate it. At the same time, the other two terrorists were to blow themselves up at the entrance to the U.S. embassy building in Tel Aviv. Shin Bet officials believe that the plan to strike at the International Convention Center was in a more advanced stage, though the chances of striking at the U.S. embassy were slim.
Hamas, the Islamist group currently governing the Palestinian Gaza strip, dismissed the Israeli government announcement as a "fabrication," created to justify a bombing campaign in the region. Meanwhile, the Shin Bet statement on the arrests accused the Hamas organization of "allow[ing] Salafists to carry out terror attacks so long as they are not targeting them.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.