Israeli intelligence services say they have uncovered an Al Qaeda plot that may have originated with terror leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri to target three sites including the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, arrested three Palestinians from east Jerusalem who were recruited online by an Al Qaeda operative in Gaza.
Security officials said the three were preparing multiple large-scale bombings and shootings on the Jerusalem Convention Center, a bus traveling the route between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim (a settlement outside Jerusalem) and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. They said the men also planned to attack emergency responders arriving at the scene.
According to the Shin Bet, the three suspects were recruited separately as part of a plan orchestrated by the Gaza Al Qaeda activist, Ariv Al-Sham.
The Post quoted senior Shin Bet sources who said they believed the Gaza activist received his marching orders directly from Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahri.
One of the suspects, Iyad Khalil Abu-Sara, 23, was reportedly recruited via Skype and Facebook.
During his interrogation, he reportedly told police he had volunteered to carry out a “sacrifice attack” on an Israeli bus. The plan included firing at the bus’s tires with the intent of causing it to overturn. They then planned to gun down the passengers at close range and fire on emergency responders arriving at the scene, Israeli media reported.
The Shin Bet said that Abu-Sara also volunteered to plan suicide bombings of the Jerusalem Convention Center and the U.S. Embassy, which were to take place simultaneously.
The plan reportedly also involved placing a suicide terrorist in a truck loaded with explosives to be detonated with fire crews and paramedics arrived on the scene outside the Jerusalem Convention Center.
Abu-Sara and his Gaza counterpart were planning to recruit foreign jihadis to enter Israel using fake Russian passports and posing as tourists.
“Abu-Sara was meant to receive the terrorists, and prepare their suicide bomb vests and a truck bomb. Abu-Sara was also supposed to travel to Syria for training in combat and explosives manufacturing, and had purchased a flight ticket to Turkey, a gateway to Syria,” the Post reported.
In another plot, Rubin Abu-Nagma was arrested after confessing to plans to kidnap an Israeli soldier from Jerusalem and to set off a bomb near an apartment building in Jerusalem.
The third suspect, Ala Anam, confessed to engaging in internet communications with Al-Sham, the Gaza Al Qaeda operative and plotting to set up a Salafi-Jihadi cell in the northern West Bank to plan future terror attacks.
“Security sources noted with concern the swift process of recruitment and preparations that occurred online in the space of a few months. They added that Abu-Sara's father was opposed to his son's activities and warned him repeatedly after seeing his son surfing radical Islamist websites,” the Post reported.