The al-Qaeda second-in-command who was killed in Tehran was in the midst of inspiring and encouraging attacks on Israel and Jews, according to reports.
The operation to kill Abu Muhammad al-Masri was done at the behest of the US, as reported in The New York Times, but he was also involved in planning attacks on Jews. The latest twist in the story was revealed to N12. "Abu Muhammad al-Masri began to plan terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, so Israel and the US's interests joined."
AP reports have indicated that four current and former US officials confirmed the details of the killing of al-Qaeda's second in command. The US provided details to Israel on "where they could find Masri." He was on a "kill or capture" list for many years due to his involvement in attacks on US embassies in Africa in the 1990s.
His daughter was also the widow of Hamzah bin Laden, who was killed last year. Hamzah was the son of Osama bin Laden. The daughter, Maryam, was believed to be an important al-Qaeda figure as well. She was killed in August in the same attack that took out Abu Muhammad. That they lived in Iran – allegedly near other important figures – made them difficult to get to, press reports indicate.
It is interesting that al-Qaeda was seeking to target Jews and Israelis. Bin Laden's central ideology included speeches about "jihad against Jews and Crusaders." This dates back to a 1998 recording of the terror mastermind. This is the same era in which Masri would have been key to the embassy bombings. In 2009, bin Laden warned the US about ties to Israel. Hamzah also released a speech in 2017 calling for attacks on Jews, Americans and Israel. This included support for "lone wolf" attacks.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri also called for bombings against Israel due to US President Donald Trump recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel in 2019. Antisemitism and targeting Israel were key components of the bin Laden ethos and al-Qaeda dating back to the 1990s. Declassified bin Laden letters in 2015 revealed this to be the case as well, cementing what is known about the organization's overall ideological plots against Jews and Israel. The only exception to this is that bin Laden was apparently a fan of a Jewish French-Algerian musician, Enrico Macias.
Al-Qaeda attacked the El Ghriba Tunisian synagogue in 2002. In 2013 Turkey prevented an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the US Embassy in Ankara and a synagogue in Turkey. Synagogues have been frequent targets of plots, not all of which were linked to al-Qaeda, but some of which were linked to other lone wolf extremists. These included a 2012 plot by men to bomb several sites, including Jews in the UK, and plots against New York synagogues in 2013 by a Moroccan man. Al-Qaeda also tried to ship bombs to synagogues in Chicago in 2010, according to a congressional report. There were about 30 plots between 2004 and 2013 according to one piece of testimony to Congress.
This means that al-Qaeda, whose members received shelter in Iran, plotted attacks on Israel and Jews around the world and sought to inspire these attacks. The removal of Hamzah and the al-Qaeda No. 2 from the scene appears to have reduced the leadership's ability to continue to inspire and order these attacks.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.