Terror groups use Israel-Hamas war to bolster recruiting, inspire lone-wolf attacks

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Western officials are concerned that fallout from the Israel-Hamas war will result in attacks on their turf.

Terror groups use Israel-Hamas war to bolster recruiting, inspire lone-wolf attacks
A demonstrator sets fire to a U.S. flag during a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in support of Palestinians in Gaza and to condemn the Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, in Mexico City, Mexico June 1, 2024. (photo credit: DANIEL BECERRIL/REUTERS)

Islamist terror organizations are using the outrage from Israel’s war against Hamas, which the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry claims has casualties surpassing 38,000, to bolster its numbers and inspire lone-wolf attacks in the US and Europe, according to media reports from the last week.

Brett Holmgren, the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, told the Washington Post that fury over the United States’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas has led to international terror groups receiving an influx of members. 

In addition to bolstering terrorist organizations, the strong emotional response to the war against Hamas has allowed terror groups to inspire lone actors to carry out attacks.

The Hamas-led assault on Israel on Oct. 7 “was, is, and will be a generational event that terrorist organizations in the Middle East and around the world use as a recruiting opportunity,” Holmgren told the Post.

Referencing attempted attacks on European Jewish institutes in Germany and the Netherlands, he said, “We’ve already seen [lone actor attacks] play out to some degree in Europe.”

Police officer patrols on the Trocadero square in front of the Olympic rings displayed on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic games in Paris, France, June 7, 2024.
Police officer patrols on the Trocadero square in front of the Olympic rings displayed on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic games in Paris, France, June 7, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/SARAH MEYSSONNIER)

Asked about US optics in light of the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry’s death count, Holmgren said that “the sentiments that you’re hearing on the ground are real.”

“They are reflected in the analysis that we’ve conducted,” he said, acknowledging “the global ramifications that 7 October has had, and is likely to have, on the perception of the United States in the region and among most Muslim countries.”

Normalizing extremist groups

Terror groups have also experienced more sympathy from some Western groups since the outbreak of the war.

Only a month after Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing over 1200 people and abducting over 250 more, a TikTok trend saw users openly praising a 20-year-old letter written by Osama Bin Laden, one of the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks in New York. 

Additionally, Hamas and Hezbollah flags, both groups recognized as terror organizations by the United States, have been flown openly at pro-Palestinian protests. 

US military bases on high alert 

According to CNN, US military bases in Europe were put on alert last week, and the force protection level rose to its second-highest state.

The alert “applies when an incident occurs or intelligence is received indicating some form of terrorist action or targeting against personnel or facilities is likely,” the US Army said.

A US official told CNN that they had not seen this threat level in 10 years.

EUCOM said the level of vigilance was being increased as “Malign actors have increased the threat of attacks against various non-military targets in Europe.”

Military employees were encouraged to keep a low profile and remain vigilant, and activities on some bases were temporarily suspended.

International concerns over terrorism

The possibility of Islamist attacks is the top security worry for the Games, the Paris chief of police said last month, according to Reuters. France has said it would move its opening ceremony from the River Seine if a specific security risk were confirmed.

A man was arrested in May in the French town of Saint-Etienne, suspected of planning an attack in the name of Islamic State at the city’s soccer stadium during the Olympics.

According to Reuters, insurance companies are also concerned about the games, specifically that the Israeli Olympic team’s participation may further inflame international tensions.