Christopher A. Wray, the director of the FBI, warned US senators on Tuesday that the violence between Israel and Hamas has raised the potential for an attack on Americans in the United States to “a whole other level.”
“We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as inspiration the likes of which we have not seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” Mr Wray said.
Several foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks on Americans since Oct. 7, when Hamas gunmen carried out a gruesome attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people, Wray said. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has called for attacks on Jewish communities in the United States and Europe; the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah threatened to attack American interests in the Middle East; and Al Qaeda also made a special call to attack the United States, Mr. Wray.
The most immediate concern, said Mr. Wray, is that individuals or small groups in the United States were inspired by the October 7 attacks “to carry out attacks on Americans going about their daily lives.”
“That includes not only domestic violent extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, but also domestic violent extremists targeting Jewish or Muslim communities,” he said.
Mr. Wray pointed to the arrest in Houston on Oct. 19 of a Palestinian asylum seeker who had been in the United States since June 2019 on a travel visa that expired several months later. Mr Wray said the man, identified by prosecutors as Sohaib Abuayyash, 20, studied how to make bombs and posted details online of his support for killing Jews.
Prosecutors said he illegally possessed firearms and was in contact with “others who share radical thinking, conducted physical training and practiced weapons in order to carry out an attack,” according to the criminal complaint, which was largely redacted.
Testimony of Mr. Wray came at a time when threats to the Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in the United States have been on the rise since the war began on Oct. 7.
Between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23, there were 312 anti-Semitic acts in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Among them is a report from October 15 at Grand Central Terminal in New York when someone punched a Jewish woman in the face because she is Jewish.
In the same time period, Council on American Islamic Relationscivil rights organization, said it had received more than 700 complaints since Oct. 7, including reported incidents of bias.
Glenn Thrush contributed to the reporting.