Government threat report warns about attacks in Canada inspired by Hamas-Israel conflict

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WATCH: Hate crimes and antisemitic rhetoric have risen in Canada since Hamas' attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, according to government documents obtained through the Access to Information Act. Caryn Lieberman reports – Feb 26, 2024

The government’s terrorist threat assessment agency is warning that extremists motivated by the Israel-Hamas conflict could attack crowds at events in Canada.

In a series of strategic intelligence briefs issued in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the analysts cautioned about mass violence spilling into this country.

The Integrated Terrorist Assessment Centre (ITAC) predicted attacks could target protests, cultural centres, diplomatic posts “or other symbols of Israeli or Palestinian interests in Canada.”

Such an attack would likely be carried out by a “radicalized lone actor” using readily available weapons, ITAC wrote in the briefs circulated last October and released to Global News.

“It is possible that ideologically and religiously motivated violent extremists and lone actors may be triggered by events and mobilize to violence and conduct a mass casualty attack at large gatherings,” ITAC wrote in a brief on the Canadian implications of the conflict.

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Click to play video: 'Government threat report warns of ‘mass violence’ in Canada inspired by Hamas-Israel conflict'
Government threat report warns of ‘mass violence’ in Canada inspired by Hamas-Israel conflict

ITAC is a federal government team, composed of members of the security and intelligence community, that assesses threats to Canada.

In December 2023, police in Ottawa arrested a youth who has been charged with plotting a terrorist attack against the Jewish community.

Additional charges filed on Feb. 15 accused the suspect, who cannot be named because he is a minor, of conspiracy to commit murder at the direction of a terrorist group.

He was also charged with knowingly facilitating terrorist activity “by making available and exchanging instructional material and propaganda.”

A second youth was also charged with murder conspiracy for a terrorist group, facilitating terrorist activity and trying to acquire a prohibited firearm for terrorist purposes.

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The details of the alleged terror plot were not disclosed, and a publication ban was imposed on the court case, but police said the target was the Jewish community.

Multiple sources have told Global News the terrorist group in question was ISIS, which was allegedly communicating with at least one of the youths from overseas.

Federal government threat assessment reports released to Global News. Global News

The threat reports, released under the Access to Information Act, show that since the Oct. 7 attack, intelligence officials have been conducting assessments of events that draw large crowds.

They have examined the likelihood of attacks linked to the Hamas-Israel conflict at everything from Remembrance Day ceremonies to Santa Claus parades.

An attack of that nature was “increasingly likely” in Canada, said a briefing that examined the increased “potential for community violence in Canada” resulting from events in the Middle East.

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The reports noted that antisemitic hate crimes were already rising before the Hamas attack, and had jumped 182 per cent since 2015 to more than 500 in 2022.

“We’re seeing language kind of riling people up,” said Andrew Kirsch, a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer. “The concern is that the rhetoric we’re seeing could cause someone to be inspired to take matters into their own hands.”

While protests related to the conflict had been largely peaceful, ITAC said “this does not preclude opportunistic threat actors from joining events and engaging in violent behaviour.”

“As the conflict intensifies, both religiously motivated violent extremism (RMVE) and ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE) adherents could see symbols of the Israeli government, including embassies and consulates, or Jewish community facilities as desirable targets,” it said.

“Individuals in Canada have previously expressed support for Hamas, and RMVE adherents abroad have called for lone-actor attacks targeting Jewish people as a means to support Palestinians.”

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The briefs listed eight “possible targets” of anti-Jewish attacks in Canada.

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At the same time, ITAC said mosques, Islamic community centres, campus groups, Palestinian consulates, lobby groups and businesses associated with Palestinians could be targeted.

“Rhetoric about Palestinians could inspire a lone wolf actor to conduct an attack targeting Palestinians or symbolic locations associated with the Palestinian Authority,” it said.

“Ongoing tensions will likely increase reports of hate crimes targeting Palestinians and other Muslim communities.”

The government should be publicly releasing information about potential threats more quickly, said Gerry Almendrades, national security director at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

“My initial reaction is that it was not released in a timely enough manner,” he said. “Reports of this kind had been released in Europe almost immediately, a month after the events of October 7th.”

Last fall, the federal government pledged $10 million to help “at risk” groups install security equipment at community centres and places of worship.

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