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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 23:52 GMT
Palestinians 'in al-Qaeda plot'
Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man in the West Bank (file photo)
Israel fears it would be a target for any Palestinian al-Qaeda recruits
An Israeli military tribunal has charged two West Bank Palestinians with plotting bomb attacks for al-Qaeda.

It is the first time Israel has formally charged Palestinians with membership of the militant network.

The two men were arrested in December after allegedly meeting al-Qaeda operatives in Jordan to receive funding and training to carry out attacks.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned recently that al-Qaeda was trying to recruit in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli security officials have also confirmed al-Qaeda has been seeking members in the Palestinian territories, and that Israel is considered a prime target for attack.

'Pizzeria target'

The Israeli military says Azzam Abu Aladas and Balal Hafnai, both 19 and from the West Bank city of Nablus, met al-Qaeda operatives in Jordan at least three times between May and December last year.

They are accused of plotting a suicide bombing at a pizzeria in the Jewish French Hill neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

It was to be followed shortly afterwards by a car bomb in a nearby street targeting people who came to the scene.

The pair are suspected of recruiting potential suicide bombers to carry out the attacks.

The charge sheet presented to the Israeli military tribunal also alleges the two men received $4,240 (2,424) from al-Qaeda to carry out the attacks.

Both have been charged with conspiring to commit murder, membership of an illegal group, illegal possession of weapons and carrying out military training with al-Qaeda.

They were arrested while crossing from Jordan to the West Bank in December.

It was not immediately clear how the two men would plead or whether a lawyer had been appointed to represent them.

Earlier this month, the Palestinian militant group Hamas rejected a message in which al-Qaeda urged it never to make peace with Israel.

Hamas' exiled political leader Khaled Meshaal said the group had "its own vision" and did not need al-Qaeda's advice.

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