Brief: Attacks on Israelis Abroad Spike After Start of War in Gaza

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 23

The aftermath of the car ramming in Tokyo. (Source: Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Since the launch of Israel’s invasion of Gaza after Hamas’s massacre of Israelis living in nearby towns on October 7, various Muslim and pro-Palestinian left-wing groups have rallied to support the Palestinian side. These rallies have seen some clashes with police and property damage alongside anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, and pro-Hamas slogans. However, attacks on Israeli interests abroad by lone actors have also been taking place around the world, including in Israel-friendly countries where the protests have otherwise been sparse.

After former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal called for a “Day of Rage” on October 13 in response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks in Gaza, knife attacks occurred in France (see TM, October 31), and Beijing, China (South China Morning Post, October 13). In the latter case, although the perpetrator’s identity was not immediately made public—beyond that he was a “foreign national”—the victim was an Israeli embassy employee. The victim was stabbed multiple times with a knife just a few streets away from the embassy itself (Times of Israel, October 13). Given these details and the fact that the attack occurred on the “Day of Rage,” it is generally assumed that the incidents were related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

One week later, on October 21, a pipe bomb was detonated outside the Israeli embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus (WION, October 21). The explosion, not much more powerful than one might get from fireworks, caused no serious injuries. Four Syrians were arrested as suspects after the bombing, and authorities tied the attack to the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas. It was possible, however, that the pipe bomb was intended to act as a diversion for a separate plot, since one of the four suspects had two knives and a hammer in his car when he was arrested (The New Arab, October 21).

On November 16, one month after the Cyprus incident, a car rammed into a barricade near the Israeli embassy in Tokyo, Japan. The 53-year old perpetrator was apparently a member of a right-wing political group and had posted on X (formerly Twitter) that “Israel is at fault for invading the Gaza Strip” (Kyodo News, November 16). However, the attacker later confessed and apologized for both the attack and for injuring a police officer.

Only one day after the car-ramming in Tokyo, another suspect with a gun was arrested while planning an attack on embassy employees near the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan (The Jerusalem Post, November 17). Previously, in July, an Afghan with alleged ties to Iranian intelligence was also arrested while plotting a more sophisticated attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku (i24 News, July 11). This more recent attack in Baku, however, more closely matched the trend of others around the world, with an ill-prepared attacker acting alone—and with his plot easily disrupted.

Azerbaijan enjoys close relations with Israel, while China, Cyprus, and Japan are also all friendly with the Jewish state. As such, the series of attacks since the Israel-Hamas war began have largely involved lone attackers acting independently, who have been psychologically triggered by the news. This does not discount, however, the likelihood that more sophisticated and well-trained attackers backed by Iran or other anti-Israeli countries will attempt more complex attacks on Israeli interests in the future. Nonetheless, thus far countries with diplomatic relations with Israel are taking threats to Israeli nationals seriously and have successfully protected Israeli citizens and diplomatic personnel from attacks since October 7.