(The Hill) — Federal authorities warned on Thursday of the increasing threat posed by “violent extremists and lone offenders” on U.S. soil amid the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
In a joint news release, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said the threat level has increased since their initial alert earlier this month.
“Since DHS and FBI issued the 10 October Public Service Announcement, the volume and frequency of threats to Americans, especially those in the Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities in the United States, have increased, raising our concern that violent extremists and lone offenders motivated by or reacting to ongoing events could target these communities,” the federal agencies said in their joint news bulletin.
The federal agencies said they have seen “hoax bomb threats targeting houses of worship and violent rhetoric online encouraging attacks against the Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities” across the country.
The bulletin noted the recent death of Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, who was killed by his landlord who stabbed him and severely wounded his mother in an attack earlier this month, an incident that is being investigated as a hate crime.
The federal agencies also said in their bulletin that other terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaida have called for Hamas to conduct attacks on U.S. bases, airports, battleships, and embassies in predominantly Muslim countries, as well as attacks on Jewish communities in Europe and the U.S. The agencies noted that Iranian state media is spreading misinformation online about the conflict as well.
“Tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories have long been a source of calls for violence against Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities. This history, coupled with the current widespread sharing of graphic and disturbing content related to this conflict, increases the risk of incitement to violence in the United States,” the bulletin said. “We therefore urge everyone to remain vigilant and to report any threats of violence or suspicious activity to law enforcement.”
It’s been two weeks since Hamas’ surprise attack against Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people in Israel. About 200 others were taken hostage by the militant group.
In response, Israel has launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of more than 7,000 people and injuries to more than 18,000 more, according to a Thursday update from the Gaza Health Ministry. President Biden on Wednesday warned against accepting death toll figures from the Hamas-run ministry.
Biden has repeatedly reaffirmed his support for Israel, and its right to respond to Hamas with force. But he has also warned that Israel needs a clear strategy as it prepares a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.
The House approved a resolution Wednesday night that expressed support for Israel and condemned the Hamas attack. Nine Democrats and one Republican voted against the measure.