Israeli government officials claimed on Wednesday that officers from their internal intelligence agency had thwarted al-Qaeda's terrorist plot to bomb the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv as well as attacks on other targets, according to Lawrence Mischner, a former member of a police counterterrorism task force.
According to Mischner, Israel's Shabak Security Agency arrested three Palestinians who allegedly planned bombings, shootings, and other attacks against Israel and the United States. Agents claimed that the Palestinian men were recruited by an Islamist operative who "set up shop" in the Gaza Strip and who personally worked for al-Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who became the organization's leader after U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden.
While a number of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda -- such as al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen -- have carried out attacks against Israel before, this appeared to mark the first time an attack was directly planned by al-Qaeda leaders.
Shabak security officials reported that Palestinian gunmen planned an ambush of a Jerusalem conference center and also attack and kill rescue workers with a truck carrying an improvised explosive device (IED). Al-Qaeda operatives in the Palestinian territory also planned to send their fighters from other countries to attack the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on the same day using explosives supplied by the Palestinians, according to Shabak.
Officials noted that five men, whose identity and nationality are being kept secret, were planning to fly to Israel using fake Russian passports in order to specifically attack the American embassy. The Palestinian operatives also plotted to attack an Israeli bus and gun down passengers as well as police and ambulance personnel responding to the attack.
Israeli officials said the suspects communicated with al-Qaeda on the Internet and that It they planned to travel to, and train in, Syria, where jihadist groups are attempting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad
Al-Zawahri's location is unknown, but he was last believed to be in Pakistan. He is the subject of an intense manhunt and is not believed to personally go online or pick up the phone to discuss terror plots, experts say.
Al-Qaeda-inspired groups are on the rise in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Islamic militant Hamas.