Al-Qaeda Aims at Israel

(Foreign Affairs) Matthew Levitt - On Jan. 22, Israeli officials announced that they had disrupted an "advanced" al-Qaeda terrorist plot in Israel that was traced back to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Ariv al-Sham, a Gaza-based al-Qaeda operative who worked for Zawahiri, recruited three men to take part in attacks. Iyad Khalil Abu-Sara, from the Ras Hamis neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, volunteered to carry out a "sacrifice attack" on an Israeli bus traveling between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim. The plan was for gunmen to shoot out the bus' wheels and overturn it. After that, they would gun down the passengers at close range. Sham and Abu-Sara also sketched out simultaneous suicide bombings at the Jerusalem convention center, where a second suicide bomber would target emergency responders, and at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. In preparation, Sham sent Abu-Sara computer files for a virtual bomb-making training course. Abu-Sara was to prepare the suicide vests and truck bombs, and to travel to Syria for training in combat and bomb-making. He had already purchased a ticket on a flight to Turkey by the time he was arrested. Sham had two other recruits. Rubin Abu-Nagma planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier from Jerusalem's central bus station and bomb a residential building in a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. He, too, learned to manufacture explosives online. Ala Ghanam, who lived near Jenin in the northern West Bank, was tasked with establishing a Salafi jihadi cell that would carry out future attacks. Events in Syria are quickly changing the nature of the jihadi enterprise. Its epicenter is no longer Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or Yemen, but in Syria. Today, the jihadi centers that are drawing new recruits, donations, and foreign fighters are not run by al-Qaeda. Knowing that, Zawahiri perhaps felt the need to be able to claim something big that jihadist fighters could rally around. What better than an attack on Israel? The writer is director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2014-02-05 00:00:00

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