Palestinian Al Qaeda suspects arrested by Shin Bet in East Jerusalem
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv was one of the Palestinians' targets, according to Shin Bet. (Image courtesy of The U.S. State Department)
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Israel on Wednesday announced it arrested two Palestinians affiliated to Al Qaeda from East Jerusalem who had been planning to carry out attacks with the help of foreign suicide bombers masquerading as Russian tourists.
The two men were recruited by a fellow Al Qaeda agent in the Gaza Strip, Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency said Wednesday, making this the second report in two months that the Sunni militant organization is operating in Palestine, Reuters news agency reported.
Hamas officials - who govern the besieged Gaza Strip - dismissed Shin Bet's claims, calling them "silly fabrications" that are all part of Israel's attempt to justify their military action in Palestinian areas.
According to Reuters, security experts suggest that Al Qaeda and its global agenda have not been a high priority for Palestinians, who are pursuing a more nationalistic conflict with Israel.
The two arrested Palestinians were able to travel freely across Israel due to their Jerusalem residency, a Shin Bet statement said, adding that they were recruited by Al Qaeda over social networking site Facebook and video chat application Skype, Reuters reported.
The Shin Bet statement appeared to get its information from the confessions by the Palestinians.
The statement did not elaborate on how the suspects might plead in open court, or if they had lawyers. According to Reuters, civil rights groups regularly accuse Shin Bet of mistreating and torturing terrorism suspects whilst they are in custody.
According to the intelligence agency, the Palestinian suspects had planned to supply foreign militants posing as Russian tourists with bomb vests so that they could carry out suicide attacks on an Israeli convention center in Jerusalem and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Reuters added.