The threat of terror attacks against the United States has reached a “whole other level” since America’s ally Israel went to war with the terrorist group Hamas, the FBI’s director warned Tuesday.
“The reality is that the terrorism threat has been elevated throughout 2023, but the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday.
The menace of foreign terrorist activity against the U.S. was believed to have somewhat diminished after allied forces weakened fundamentalist networks abroad in the decades since the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
But Wray claimed Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel, which led to the killing of 1,400 people and the abduction of at least 200 more, has emboldened groups like Al Qaeda to call for specific violence against the U.S. The Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah has threatened to target American interests in the Middle East. And the Islamic State is actively supporting attacks on Jews in the U.S. and Europe.
Wray said the FBI hasn’t so far seen evidence that extremist groups in the U.S. are drawing inspiration from Israel’s war with Hamas to commit acts of violence, but he worries about that possibility.
“It is a time to be concerned,” the FBI director said. “We are in a dangerous period.”
Wray noted that the FBI arrested Palestinian asylum seeker Sohaib Abuayyash in Houston earlier this month believing he was training with weapons for a possible “attack.” The FBI director also referenced the Oct. 14 fatal stabbing of 6-year-old Chicago-area boy Wadea Al-Fayoume and wounding of his mother, a Palestinian immigrant. The family’s landlord, allegedly upset about tensions in the Middle East, was charged with hate crimes as well as murder and attempted murder.
According to The New York Times, Wray worries Americans going about their daily activities could find themselves at risk.
“That includes not just homegrown violent extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, but also domestic violent extremists targeting Jewish or Muslim communities,” he testified.
Wray told committee members he recommends “vigilance,” not panic, for Americans moving forward.