Oct 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DHS warns Israel-Hamas war may further enflame tensions in U.S.

Police officers outside of a synagogue in New York City on Oct. 13.

Police officers outside of a synagogue in New York City on Oct. 13. Photo: Alex Kent/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is monitoring a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of the escalating war between Israel and Hamas, a spokesperson told Axios Wednesday.

Why it matters: Tensions within the U.S. have flared since the war erupted with Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, leading to demonstrations across the country — particularly on college campuses.

What they're saying: The DHS spokesperson said the department has seen increased reports of threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities and institutions.

  • It is also acknowledged that lone offenders "pose the most likely threat."

The FBI earlier publicly warned of increased threats against Muslim and Jewish Americans and has asked local law enforcement increase protections for religious facilities, according to Director Christopher Wray.

  • Wray told reporters on Sunday that the the bureau had not seen evidence that Hamas was attempting to direct attacks in the U.S. by its supporters, but said it was a possibility.
  • The State Department on Thursday issued a worldwide travel caution because of "the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests."

The big picture: Data reviewed by Axios' Russell Contreras showed that conflicts in the Middle East involving Israel have historically coincided with an increase of hate crimes in the U.S., particularly antisemitic attacks.

  • Before the war, hate crimes had already been on the rise, increasing by over 10% in 2022.
  • An audit by the Anti-Defamation League shared earlier this year showed that antisemitic incidents jumped to a record level in 2022, jumping by 36% from 2021.

An Illinois man was charged last week after stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy to death and critically injuring his mother in an attack police said was connected to the Israel-Hamas war.

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