Israeli authorities today announced the arrest of three global jihadists who were allegedly preparing to carry out terror attacks after being recruited by an al-Qaeda-linked operative in the Gaza Strip. The three terrorists were identified as Iyad Mahmoud Khalil Abu Sara, Rubin Abu Nagma, and Ala Yasin Mohammed Anam.
The arrested Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem area were recruited online and planned to carry out kidnappings and bombings at the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem as well as the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, among other attacks. Israeli authorities kept their counterparts in the “US and elsewhere” updated on their investigation, Israeli security sources said.
According to the Shin Bet, the three had been recruited separately by a Gaza-based operative called Oreib al Sham. “Senior Shin Bet sources said they believed Al-Sham received his orders directly from the head of al-Qaeda’s central structure, Ayman Al-Zawahri,” the Jerusalem Post reported. The unconfirmed claim “is based on statements made by the suspects during questioning,” Haaretz noted. According to Haaretz, al Sham told the recruits that he worked for Zawahiri.
Abu Sara admitted to planning a shooting attack on a bus traveling between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. According to the Shin Bet, the plot would have seen terrorists fire at the wheels of a bus, causing it to overturn, and then opening fire on the passengers and emergency responders. Abu Sara also reportedly agreed to assist in a double suicide bombing operation against the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem.
Using fake Russian passports and traveling under the guise of tourists, foreign jihadists were supposed to enter Israel, where they would have been assisted by Abu Sara in carrying out the bombings, the security agency said. According to the Shin Bet, Abu Sara had agreed to go to Syria for military training, but had not yet done so. He had already received files from Gaza detailing how to manufacture explosives, however.
Rubin Abu Nagma had been planning to kidnap a soldier from a Jerusalem bus stop in addition to detonating explosives at a housing complex in the area of Abu Tor, the Shin Bet statement said. Ala Yasin Mohammed Anam purportedly sought to establish a Salafi jihadist terror cell in the West Bank.
News of the recent arrests comes about two months after Israel security forces killed three Salafi jihadists near Hebron. The jihadists were “only a small part” of the Salafi jihadist structure in the West Bank, and “what was hidden was greater,” the Gaza-based Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem said in a statement praising the three jihadists. A Shin Bet official said those recently arrested were not linked to those killed in November, Ynet News reported.
Shin Bet officials believe that the spread of al Qaeda-linked activity in the West Bank is in its infancy and can be stopped, Reuters reported.