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Growth of Al Qaeda in West Bank Seen as Reinforcing Israeli Security Concerns

Counterterrorism officials are continuing to unpack the significance of Wednesday’s announcement by Israel’s Shin Bet security service that Israeli officials had captured three Al Qaeda-linked Palestinians plotting mass-casualty terror attacks in Israel, with Israeli CT expert Aviv Oreg telling USA Today that the plot indicated “that hard-core al-Qaeda elements are involved within Israel” for the first time in years.

Aviv Oreg, an Israeli expert on al-Qaeda and Global Jihad, called the thwarted attack “very serious.” “It appears that this is the first time since 2001, when the so-called Shoe Bomber came to Israel to conduct reconnaissance for a possible attack, that hard-core al-Qaeda elements are involved within Israel,” Oreg said.

“It seems that the three recruitees were about to go to Syria, where they would have been trained to construct explosive mobile devices and would be joined, on their return, by foreigners, who are attracted to the Syrian jihadi arena,” Oreg said. “This isn’t a lone wolf. We know what al-Qaeda is capable of, so this is a big development.”

Fox News read the incident against “growing evidence” from over recent months that “Al Qaeda and other Sunni Jihadists [are] gaining a foothold in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” The Jerusalem Post yesterday cited sources indicating that the Gaza-based operative who recruited the three men had “received his orders directly from the head of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri.” Israel’s head of military intelligence had already last summer worried that the chaos in Syria would provide a local foothold for jihadist, while the growth of Al Qaeda to Israel’s south in the Sinai Peninsula has been extensively documented. Al Qaeda’s expanding strength along Israel’s borders and inside the West Bank is likely to have straightforward diplomatic consequences. The Israelis have been insisting that any final peace agreement with the Palestinians must include provisions allowing Israel to maintain a security and counterterror presence along the border with Jordan. The Palestinians have flatly rejected the position. Evidence of fresh Al Qaeda efforts seems set to reinforce Jerusalem’s position.

[Photo: JewishNewsOne / YouTube]