(NEW YORK) — Amid increased reports of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities, federal agencies are reaching out to community leaders to assess their needs regarding safety and security.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a Thursday press conference he has directed “all 94 of our United States Attorney’s offices and the FBI” to be in close touch with federal, state and local law enforcement partners in their districts in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East.
“The entire Justice Department remains vigilant in our efforts to identify and respond to hate crimes, threats of violence or related incidents with particular attention to threats to faith communities,” said Garland.
Garland has met with U.S. attorneys and federal, state and local law enforcement officials, and has directed U.S. attorneys to “reach out to religious and other community leaders in their districts to reaffirm our commitment to them and to assess what additional support they may need.”
The FBI, DHS and National Counterterrorism Center found that the increase in recent reports of physical assaults, bomb threats and online calls for mass-casualty attacks have highlighted the tensions that the conflict overseas has heightened.
The agencies released a joint intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News for law enforcement agencies about the threat of attacks on people “perceived as symbolic of or tied to the conflict.”
The bulletin comes just days after Joseph Czuba, 71, was charged in the stabbing death a 6-year-old Muslim boy in what police said was a hate crime linked to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East.
Czuba has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and two counts of committing a hate crime in the killing of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and the repeated stabbing of Wadea’s mother in their suburban Chicago home.
“The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace. This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are,” President Joe Biden said in a statement following the incident.
The FBI, DHS and National Counterterrorism Center warned that lone actors “pose the greatest threat in the homeland” and that “foreign terrorist organizations (are) likely to capitalize on conflict.”
Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are continuing to boost security and keeping in touch with places of worship amid the threats. The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., said it has increased its security presence at such institutions.
For example, the New York Police Department instructed officers to arrive to work for 12-hour shifts on Wednesday, as forces monitor the unrest overseas, officials said.
“The NYPD asks all New Yorkers to remain vigilant and reminds everyone if they see something to say something,” said the NYPD in a statement. “For these reasons, the NYPD is continuing with our Citywide all-out deployment and all in-service training will continue to be postponed until further notice.”
Protests have also popped up across the globe – some in support of Israel following the Hamas terrorist attack that killed 1,400, and others in support of the Palestinian people amid the Israeli retaliation, which has killed at least 3,478.
All of this is backdropped by the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has long been a source of contention in the U.S.
Overseas, the Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution Security Alert advising U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution due to the potential for violence and increased tensions at various locations around the world.
ABC News’ Alexander Mallin, Beatrice Peterson and Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.
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