A plot to carry out a suicide-bombing attack on the American embassy in Tel Aviv and other targets in the country has been foiled, Israel claimed Wednesday, according to media reports.
Shin Bet, an intelligence agency, said it had arrested three people, believed to have been recruited by an operative working for al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, just before one or more members of the group was about to travel to Syria for putting together the final aspects of the attacks, according to reports.
If confirmed, the plan would be the first time al-Qaida has planned an attack on Israeli soil, according to Associated Press. However, the U.S. State Department, in Wednesday’s press briefing, did not confirm Israel’s claims, stating it was looking into the matter and awaiting more details.
Marie Harf, a deputy spokesperson for the state department, told members of the press at the briefing: “Because this was Israeli information, I’d point you to them for the corroboration. But obviously we’re looking into it as well. I don't have reason to believe it’s not true; I just don’t have independent verification.”
The planned attacks also included a suicide bombing at the main Israeli convention center in Jerusalem, an Israeli bus and Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, the Times of Israel reported.
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The AP report, citing Shin Bet, said that the three men, believed to be Palestinians, also planned to kill rescue workers with a truck bomb, and shooting down ambulance workers. The report added that the plan called for five men, whose identity and nationality remained undisclosed, to fly into Israel with fake Russian passports to bomb the U.S. embassy.
Groups inspired by al-Qaida have carried out rocket attacks in Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, AP noted, adding that, last year, a threat from the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, led to the closures of American embassies in the Middle East and Africa.
Aviv Oreg, a former head of the Israeli military intelligence unit, which tracks al-Qaida, told AP about the planned attacks in Israel: "This is the first time that Ayman al-Zawahri was directly involved," he said. "For them, it would have been a great achievement."