RAMALLAH: Palestinian security officials on Thursday cast doubt on Israel’s claim that it broke up an Al Qaeda plot to bomb the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, alleging Israel concocted the story to bolster its position in peace talks.
Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, said there is “no indication” that Al Qaeda has a presence in the territory.
“Al Qaeda cannot operate here,” Damiri said.
“It needs broad logistical support and that cannot be here in this small area.”
He said Israel had arrested some naive “boys” and claimed they were Al Qaeda to halt American pressure to show more flexibility in peace talks.
One of the suspects was identified as Ala Ghannam, 21, from Aqaba, a village near the northern West Bank town of Jenin.
His cousin, Arafat Ghannam, said 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 “his views” he expressed on Facebook, the cousin said without elaborating.
He said the family was not aware about his alleged interest in Al Qaeda but said they were not shocked to hear about it.
A US official downplayed the discovery by Israel of the Al Qaeda cell it said was plotting to bomb the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, describing the group’s plans as “aspirational.”
Another US official, however, said that while the allegations were being taken seriously, they had not been able to confirm any of the details.
“We can’t corroborate that; we probably don’t,” the official said.
“The detainee probably said it but I don’t think we give a lot of credence to that. We don’t have anything to prove it.
“We see it as what we would call an aspirational plot. It does not mean that it is not dangerous, it does not mean that it is not something we and Israel take seriously.”
A Hamas security official said Al Qaeda does not exist in the crowded seaside strip.
“Al Qaeda has never fired a single shot to liberate the land,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Adnan Abu Amer, a Gaza expert on Islamic movements, said there are groups in the area inspired by Al Qaeda “but we haven’t found any direct links.”