The ongoing Hamas-Israel conflict has heightened the potential threats of violence in the United States to a high level not seen in several years, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray warned Tuesday.
“We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” Wray said in his testimony at a congressional hearing, referring to the Islamic State group.
Wray said that multiple foreign terrorist organizations had called for attacks against Americans and the West since the beginning of the latest conflict in Gaza earlier this month, which raised the threat posed by homegrown U.S. violent extremists.
“Our most immediate concern is that violent extremists, individuals or small groups, will draw inspiration from the events of the Middle East and carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives,” Wray noted.
But he also said the FBI isn’t currently tracking an “organized threat” inside the country.
The FBI chief told lawmakers that threats to the Jewish community in the United States are “reaching in some way sort of historic level.”
The White House delivered alarm on Monday over reports of anti-Jewish incidents at multiple U.S. universities as rising tensions prompted university officials to tighten security.
During his testimony, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also said his agency had responded to an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American communities across the country since the war started.
He highlighted that hate against Jewish students, communities and institutions “added to a preexisting increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.”
The FBI has also opened a hate-crime investigation into the killing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy who police say was stabbed to death by his landlord.
“It is a time to be concerned. We are in a dangerous period,” Wray said. “This is not a time for panic, but it is a time for vigilance.”