While President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken work to prevent the Israel–Hamas conflict from expanding into a wider war, the U.S. intelligence community is warning behind the scenes that the conflict could spillover further into the United States itself, according to an intelligence memorandum obtained by The Daily Beast.
The potential for violence in the United States is “heightened” in response to the war, according to a Joint Intelligence Bulletin from the FBI, DHS, and the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center obtained by The Daily Beast.
“These recent events have sharpened the focus of potential attacks on targeted individuals and institutions perceived as symbolic of or tied to the conflict,” the bulletin says.
The intelligence memorandum states that lone wolf attackers—or individuals who act alone—who are inspired by or reacting to the Israel-Hamas war pose the “greatest threat” to the homeland. Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities are most likely to be targeted, the memorandum warns.
Threats that the U.S. intelligence community is tracking include bomb threats, online calls for mass casualty attacks, and physical assaults.
Violence could take place “with little to no warning,” the intelligence memorandum says, citing the tensions and the widespread circulation of graphic images online as potential triggers for people to take violent action.
“As the conflict endures, graphic visuals will likely continue to circulate online and garner significant media attention, potentially acting as a catalyst for various violent actors who have shared and continue to share this kind of material,” the memo notes.
Hamas has not directly called for attacks in the United States, according to U.S. intelligence. But already, the carnage has spilled over into the country, leading to protests that devolve into clashes, and even murder. In a devastating attack last weekend, mere days after Hamas launched its attack on Israel, a landlord in Illinois attacked two of his residents, killing a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy and injuring the boy’s mother. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
Anti-Semitic sentiments have also been running rampant in online circles, with synagogues around the country recieving fake bomb threats.
Hamas hasn’t made explicit calls for violence in the United States, according to the intelligence memo. But some Americans may feel motivated or inspired by Hamas’ recent attacks against Israelis, and be moved to take similar action in the United States, the memo warns.
“The perceived success of HAMAS’s terrorist attacks and U.S. foreign policy responses may prompt homegrown violent extremists to conduct attacks against the Jewish or Israeli community or the US government without specific direction from HAMAS or other foreign terrorist organizations.”
Law enforcement agencies have increased their protection activities surrounding synagogues and places of worship in recent days in anticipation of attacks. But the intelligence bulletin warns law enforcement to “remain vigilant,” as the threat is only likely to increase.
Inside and Out
In addition to Americans taking inspiration from Hamas, U.S. intelligence suggests foreign terrorist organizations are also likely to use the war as a way to call for attacks in the west.
Already, Hamas’ media organization has urged on “brothers in the Islamic resistance” to help in efforts to defeat Israel, while al Qaeda in recent days calling for attacks on American bases, airports, battleships, and embassies, the memo notes.
And although the United States has said it doesn’t intend to put boots on the ground, some have pinpointed the Biden administration as a party to the war, given that the United States is funneling military aid and ammunition to Israel, which could increase calls for attacks in the United States.
Iran, which has supported both Hezbollah and Hamas, has warned that the United States should “be held responsible for this situation.”
“Our numerous intelligence reports show that the US is formulating the Zionist regime’s current policy, and what is being done is governed by US policymaking,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote on Twitter or X.
If Israel expands its response to Hamas in Gaza further, the U.S. intelligence community warns that these kinds of threats will likely “intensify.” After pummeling Gaza with airstrikes for days, Israel’s defense minister warning troops on Thursday to prepare for a ground invasion of Gaza, noting “the order will come.”
The United States is not alone in dealing with Israel-Hamas tensions bubbling over locally. Tensions have exploded around the globe in reaction to the war. Although Hamas hasn’t necessarily called for violence inside the United States, Hamas urged people last week to engage in a day of rage in support of Palestinians, which reportedly led to reports of knife attacks around the world.
Pro-Palestinian protests around the world have taken place, many of which have been peaceful. But in some instances, including at protests in Lebanon, supporters of the terrorist group Hezbollah held a rally in support of Palestinians, calling out for “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” according to ABC News.
World leaders, including Blinken and Biden, have been convening diplomatic meetings in the Middle East for days in an attempt to simmer tensions and allow cooler heads to prevail. But U.S. officials harbor concerns that the conflict may yet expand with other aggressors taking part in violence, such as Hezbollah or Iran.
A DHS spokesperson told The Daily Beast that “the U.S. remains in a heightened threat environment and recent events reinforce that. As the Israel-Hamas conflict continues, we have seen an increase in reports of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities and institutions,” adding, “We urge the public to stay vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.”
Americans in general around the world should be on high alert for potential violence, the State Department said Thursday. The State Department issued a “Worldwide Caution Security Alert” to Americans on Thursday morning, stating that Americans should be aware of “the potential for terrorist attacks” as well as “demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests.”