The Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau has warned of the increased likelihood of terror attacks targeting Israeli and Jewish targets in the run up to the High Holy Days, highlighting western Europe as an area of particular concern.
In a report issued Monday assessing global terror threats, the Bureau noted the significant danger of western nationals currently fighting abroad for global jihadi groups, including Al Qaeda and the “Islamic State” (ISIS), returning to their home countries to commit terrorist attacks. It cited the example of Mehdi Nemmouche, the French-Algerian former ISIS fighter and torturer, who returned to Europe and is believed to have carried out a deadly shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum, which killed four people including two Israelis.
Nemmouche is said to have planned a more major terror attack to take place in Paris, but was apprehended before he could carry it out.
Some 2,000 of ISIS’s fighters are thought to hail from western states, and many have indeed returned home already. According to British authorities for example, of the 500 or so UK nationals who traveled to fight for the Islamic State, roughly half have already returned home – 40 of whom have been arrested.
The Bureau added that from the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) until the end of the festival of Sukkot the threat of attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets will increase, and also cited the recent war with Gazan terrorists as increasing the motivation of Islamist terrorists to attack Israelis at this time. Extremists in Europe used Operation Protective Edge as a pretext to unleash a wave of anti-Semitism unprecedented in recent memory, but the terror alert illustrates how that phenomenon may be but the tip of the iceberg.
Apart from Sunni jihadi groups, the Bureau also warned of the threat posed by Iranian-backed terror networks, which are still looking for “soft” Israeli targets, such as tourist hotspots, Chabad centers and other Jewish centers and institutions.
In addition to western Europe, the report also issued a severe warning against traveling to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The Sinai is a popular region for Israeli tourists, but it is also the site of an increasingly aggressive and brutal Islamist insurgency whose main instigators, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, is believed to be aligned with the Islamic State.
The report also added that there were credible terror threats against Israeli tourism and business interests in Africa, specifically Kenya and and Nigeria, where Al Qaeda-aligned groups such as Boko Haram are particularly active.