It was reported yesterday that Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet broke up an al Qaeda cell operating in Jerusalem.
According to the report, three men in Jerusalem were recruited by an al Qaeda operative in Gaza to carry out three attacks: targeting the Jerusalem-Maale Adumim bus line, the Jerusalem convention center and the American embassy in Tel Aviv. (Last year, in an apparently unrelated case, Israel arrested an Iranian national photographing the embassy.)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said an al-Qaida operative in Gaza, named as Ariv al-Sham, recruited the men separately as three independent terrorist cells. Senior Shin Bet sources said they believed Sham received his orders directly from the head of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Using Skype and Facebook, Sham was able to recruit Iyad Khalil Abu-Sara, 23, of Ras Hamis of east Jerusalem, who has an Israeli ID card. During questioning, Abu-Sara, who was arrested on December 25, admitted to volunteering to carry out a “sacrifice attack” on an Israeli bus traveling between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. In the planned attack, terrorists would shoot out the bus’s tires, causing it to overturn, before gunning down passengers at close range and firing on emergency responders.
One of them was planning to arrange to bring foreign terrorists to Israel posing as Russian tourists to aid in the execution of his plans.
The report in USA Today explained why this discovery is a big deal:
Aviv Oreg, an Israeli expert on al-Qaeda and Global Jihad, called the thwarted attack “very serious.”
“It appears that this is the first time since 2001, when the so-called Shoe Bomber came to Israel to conduct reconnaissance for a possible attack, that hard-core al-Qaeda elements are involved within Israel,” Oreg said. …
“It seems that the three recruitees were about to go to Syria, where they would have been trained to construct explosive mobile devices and would be joined, on their return, by foreigners, who are attracted to the Syrian jihadi arena,” Oreg said. “This isn’t a lone wolf. We know what al-Qaeda is capable of, so this is a big development.”
These arrests are consistent with the analysis espoused by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross that local al Qaeda groups are not members of a “junior varsity” wearing NBA uniforms as President Obama claims, but in fact have “hidden arrangements with either al Qaeda’s affiliates or directly with its senior leadership.”
Apparently Israel is one more place that al Qaeda is running to.
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