FBI Director Christopher Wray warned on Tuesday that the conflict between Israel and Hamas has led to a sharp increase in threats against the United States

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned on Tuesday that the conflict between Israel and Hamas has led to a sharp increase in threats against the United States, cautioning that "we are in a dangerous period" as various terrorist groups seek to exploit the conflict for their purposes.

Israeli forces struck the largest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip MIDDLE EAST CRISIS - EXPLAINER Israeli forces continue to advance into the Gaza Strip as the offensive against Hamas enters its fifth day The threat of international terrorism in the United States has significantly decreased in recent years, especially after the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. However, senior U.S. officials say that the deadly attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 has created a new dynamic with dangerous consequences both domestically and abroad.

"The reality is that the terrorism threat has been increasing throughout 2023, but the ongoing conflict in the Middle East has elevated the threat of attacks on Americans in the United States to an entirely different level," Wray said, speaking before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

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The Hamas attack, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,400 people in Israel, "will be a source of inspiration, the likes of which we haven't seen since ISIS declared its so-called caliphate many years ago," Wray stated.

He mentioned that the FBI does not have evidence of an imminent threat from a foreign terrorist group, but he noted that after Hamas' attack on Israel, Al-Qaeda issued its most specific call for violence against the U.S. in recent years. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has called on its followers to target Jewish communities in the U.S. and Europe.

The conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip is being used in extremist propaganda Kristin Azzopardi, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told lawmakers that the war between Israel and Hamas has featured in messages and propaganda since October 7.

"We have seen it from affiliates of Al-Qaeda, virtually all of them," she said, referring to terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa linked to Al-Qaeda. "We've also seen it from ISIS, which ideologically is not aligned with a group like Hamas, but they are still using this current conflict to try to inspire violence, to further their cause in an exploitative way."

On the domestic front, Wray expressed the FBI's greatest concern that militant extremists, including those inspired by foreign terrorist groups, as well as domestic militant extremists, will draw inspiration from the ongoing conflict to carry out attacks against Americans.

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"We've already seen this with the individual we arrested last week in Houston, who was studying how to build bombs and posting online about supporting the killing of Jews," Wray said. "And with the tragic killing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in Illinois, which we are investigating as a federal hate crime."

But Wray also expressed concern about traditional formal terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Hezbollah that may attempt to strike the U.S.

"We're not currently tracking a specific, credible threat from a foreign terrorist organization, a structured plot here or anything like that, but we believe that increased vigilance is warranted in this case," he said.

"It's time to be concerned," he added. "We are in a dangerous period."

At the same time, he urged Americans not to be fearful.

"Now is not the time for panic; now is the time for vigilance," Wray said. "We should not stop living our daily lives, going to schools, places of worship, and so forth. But we should be vigilant."

Iran and Its Proxies Azzopardi stated that the U.S. has no intelligence indicating that Iran or its proxies, primarily the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, "foresaw" Hamas' attack on October 7.

But she said that the U.S. continues to focus on Iran's actions – and those of its allies – targeting American interests since the start of the war. She noted that militant groups affiliated with Tehran have carried out 24 attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

Despite these attacks, she said that Washington does not believe Iran is currently interested in escalating the conflict.

"We assess that Iran, Hezbollah, and their proxies are attempting to calibrate their activities to avoid actions that could open up a coordinated second front with the U.S. or Israel, while still trying to extract costs during the ongoing conflict," she said