There has been an increase in reported domestic threats since Hamas terrorist group launched its unprecedented attack on Israel, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Mr. Wray said on a call with reporters on Sunday that the FBI is moving quickly to mitigate the threats and that it does not discount the possibility that Hamas and other terror groups could use the conflict to call for or plot attacks in the United States.
“The threat is very much ongoing and in fact, the threat picture continues to evolve,” Mr. Wray said, CBS reported. “Here in the U.S., we cannot and do not discount the possibility that Hamas or other foreign terrorist organizations could exploit the conflict to call on their supporters to conduct attacks on our own soil.”
Speaking in an address to an international police chief conference in San Diego, California, on Saturday, Mr. Wray said the war in the Middle East is creating a “heightened environment” in the United States, where Hamas-inspired bad actors may seek to wreak havoc on home soil.
“In this heightened environment, there’s no question we’re seeing an increase in reported threats, and we have to be on the lookout, especially for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own,” he told the conference.
“And I’d encourage you to stay vigilant, because as the first line of defense in protecting our communities, you’re often the first to see the signs that someone may be mobilizing to violence,” he added. “And I’d also ask you to continue sharing any intelligence or observations you may have.”
Mr. Wray didn’t provide more details about the alleged threats, nor did he specify whether his department is taking or has taken any action against them. He did take the opportunity to offer “heartfelt condolences to the people of Israel” and condemn anti-Semitism.
“History has been witness to anti-Semitic and other forms of violent extremism for far too long,” he said.
“Whether that be from foreign terrorist organizations, or those inspired by them, or domestic violent extremists motivated by their own racial animus, the targeting of a community because of their faith is completely unacceptable. We remain committed to continue confronting those threats—both here in the United States and overseas.”
The remarks came the same day that Israeli military leaders announce that their 300,000-member strong force was preparing for a full-scale ground invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza, following a call on 1.1 million civilians—nearly half of Gaza’s population—to leave the northern part of the enclave.
In a similar vein, a group of 10 Republican senators on Friday issued a joint statement urging Americans to “remain vigilant” to safeguard their communities against “potential perpetrators” inspired by Hamas’s brutality.
“To any bad actors who dare cross onto American soil seeking to exploit the crisis in Israel and wreak havoc domestically, our message is clear: Any threat to the United States will be pursued and suppressed swiftly, forcefully and to the fullest extent of U.S. justice,” the letter reads. “Your vile and hateful acts have no place here.”
Big City Police Departments on High Alert
In major cities across the United States, police departments have been put on high alert amid fears of pro-Palestinian demonstrations devolving into violence, especially after a former Hamas leader encouraged those demonstrations.
“Deliver a message, through the squares in and the streets, a message of anger that we are with Palestine, that we are with Gaza, with al-Aqsa, with Jerusalem and that we are a part of this battle,” Khaled Mashal, a founding member of the terror group who lives in Qatar, said in a video statement that has been widely circulated on social media. “This is the moment for the [Arab] nation to join in the fight.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said it is closely monitoring pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which are planned for Friday and throughout the weekend in the area, drawing more than a thousand of supporters and counter-protesters. It also said the officers are staying in close contact with Jewish and Muslim communities.
The Chicago Police Department said it is “paying special attention to synagogues and mosques so that all of our residents are safe.” A synagogue in Skokie, a Chicago suburb, was forced to evacuate on Thursday after receiving a bomb threat, but a police investigation ended up finding no credible threat.
In Washington, Capitol Police said they planned to “enhance security” at the complex. The Capitol Police also told residents to expect increased visibility in the area, including at places of worship and some schools, “to help ensure the safety,” although there are no credible threats.
In New York City, meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams stressed that there were no specific threats targeting the city, but pledged to increase law enforcement in places where demonstrations were expected.
“I want every New Yorker, especially our Jewish New Yorkers and other groups, to know there are no credible or specific threats against our city. But with large-scale protests planned for tomorrow, let’s remain vigilant,” Mr. Adams said, speaking of the pro-Palestinian rally that took place in Times Square, where thousands of demonstrators marched with New York City police keeping a highly visible profile.
As the war escalates, Israeli government precautionarily advised that citizens living overseas should not get involved in local protests or demonstrations at all.
“It is reasonable to assume that there will be protest events in various countries that are liable to turn violent,” the government warned.
“The National Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommend that Israelis abroad be alert, keep away from the demonstrations and protests and–if necessary–check with local security forces regarding possible protests and disturbances in the area.”