Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, says there is "no indication" that al-Qaida has a presence in the territory. He accused Israel of arresting some "boys" and exaggerating the nature of the threat to bolster its position in peace talks.
"Al-Qaida cannot operate here," Damiri said. "It needs broad logistical support and that cannot be here in this small area."
One of the suspects was identified as Ala Aanam, 21, from Aqaba, a village near the northern West Bank town of Jenin. His cousin, Arafat Aanam, told The Associated Press that the 21 year old was arrested by the Israeli military two and half weeks ago in a night raid.
He said Palestinian intelligence forces had arrested him just a week before and had let him go. The Palestinians arrested him because of "Islamic views" he expressed on Facebook, the cousin said without elaborating. He said the family was not aware about his alleged interest in al-Qaida but said they were not shocked to hear about it.
The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court cleared for publication Wednesday that the Shin Bet had 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.
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.
During his investigation, one of the three – 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.
The largest and most ambitions of the cell's plans included a simulations and orchestrated terror attack on Jerusalem's International Convention Center and the American Embassy in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Street.
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 the plan was only in initial planning stages and was not close to being put into action.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report