Israel is taking seriously a renewed threat by Osama bin Laden to attack it.
After Al-Qaida issued a recorded message this week vowing to “liberate Palestine” – a reference to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip – Israel stepped up its scrutiny of Palestinian terrorist groups.
“Al-Qaida has many admirers within Israel’s borders, mainly in Judea and Samaria and Gaza,” Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israel Radio on Monday.
“Thus the chances of active Al-Qaida cells being set up here, with strong motivation to carry out major attacks, is something we should prepare for and thwart. Security officials have, in recent years, identified ‘Global Jihad’ elements in the territories who are predisposed to view Bin Laden as their leader and to draw their jihadist spirit from Al-Qaida.”
Hanegbi noted that Bin Laden’s recent message differed from previous ones by appearing to threaten attacks on targets in Israel. “There is a chance that his operatives will view this as an order to operate, even if up until now they did not think this was important,” he said.
Yediot Acharonot reported that intelligence warnings had been received of possible Al-Qaida attacks being planned against Israeli tourists in Turkey. Jerusalem officials had no immediate comment.