The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court has cleared for publication that the Shin Bet has recently arrested three Palestinians, the most senior of which from east Jerusalem and the other two from the West Bank, and that the three were actively involved in planning at least two major terror attacks, including a suicide attack and truck bombing.
(R) Abu Najma, Aanam and Abu Sarah
According to suspicions, the cell was planning to undertake a complex set of terror attacks on the orders of a Gaza-based operator who is directly affiliated with al-Qaeda and answers directly to Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri.
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The Shin Bet investigation revealed that about four months ago, the Gaza operator, who works under the Salafist alias Arib a-Shaham, enlisted the three: Iyad Abu Sarah, 24-year-old from east Jerusalem, Rubin Abi Najma, 30-year-old from Nablus and Ala Aanam, 22, from a village not far from Jenin.
The Shin Bet believes that their enlistment and deployment was conducted over the internet via Skype and Facebook, without anyone of the three knowing about the other's existence or their orders.
According to the Shin Bet, Abu Sarah admitted during interrogation to receiving instructions to carry out a large-scale terror attack and he also said he had begun learning the tenets of Salafism. His father apparently noticed his son's new-found interest in radical Islam and attempted to dissuade him. Abu Sarah also donated funds to support the transfer of radical forces to al-Qaeda in Syria.
During his investigation, Abu Sarah claimed he was planning an attack on a bus which runs from Jerusalem to the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. The plan was to fire at the bus' wheels in a bid to cause it to flip over. He then planned to fire on the fleeing crash survivors and arriving rescue forces.
After scrapping this idea, Abu Sarah began organizing a plan to orchestrate a simultaneous terror attack in two major sites: Jerusalem's International Convention Center and the American embassy in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Street.
During his investigation he revealed that he planned to leave the country soon to travel to Syria where he was expected to meet with al-Qaeda operatives and work with five of them to realize the double terror attack. He was supposed to aid the five to enter Israel with fake Russian identification.
According to the plan, three of the five terrorists were supposed to detonate a massive explosive at the heart of the crowds entering the International Convention Center and after that Abu Sara was suppose to lead an explosive laden truck to the scene to target the rescue and security forces arriving in wake of the blast.
In the meantime, two other al-Qaeda operatives were suppose to descend on the US embassy in Tel Aviv with suicide belts strapped onto their bodies and detonate them at the entrance to the embassy.
The Shin Bet noted that Abu Sarah was only in initial planning stages, including training for making explosives with fertilizers and purchasing flight tickets to Syria from which he could cross into Syria. Abu Sarah also received instruction on bomb making from his Gaza operator.
Al-Qaeda in the West Bank
The second man taken in for Shin Bet interrogation, Abu Najma, also admitted to planning to kidnap a soldier in Jerusalem and place an explosive device at the entrance to the mostly-Jewish Abu Tor neighborhood in the capital.
The third man, Aanam, admitted to planning to form a terror cell in his home village near Jenin.
The Shin Bet noted that the three had no previous record of terror activities, but they did express support of such organizations, namely al-Qaeda.
"We are talking about a serious plan that was now in initial stages of coming together. During investigation we updated the relevant parties in the US and elsewhere," a senior Shin Bet source said.
"Their mode of operation is identical to that presented by al-Qaeda when it perpetrates terror attacks around the world, especially along the Egyptian-Israeli border, with the help of internet correspondence. This cell is not connected to the one found and eliminated in Yata village in southern Mount Hebron" at the end of November, the source added.
The source also noted that the five foreign operatives who were expected to participate in the attack were apprehended because of alert border control forces.
The Shin Bet further noted that "the phenomena of international jihad and al-Qaeda, now in its infancy in Judea and Samaria, after it has already garnered hundreds of operatives in Gaga. Together with the Palestinian Authority we can stop it.
Regarding Gaza, the Shin Bet said that Hamas' effort to stop rival factions from escalating the situation in the south has as of now been confined to talking and placing security forces in the field, but no arrests.