Will the Israel–Hamas War Spark New Waves of Extremism in Central Asia?

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 22 Issue: 4

A warehouse owned by a company with Israeli investors was burnt down in what appears to have been intended to be an anti-Israeli act in Almaty, Kazakhstan on January 14, 2024. (Source: Islamic World News)

Executive Summary

  • Central Asian governments have increased security at Israeli and Jewish sites and expressed neutrality on the Gaza conflict, but unrest could inspire extremist attacks.
  • Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) propaganda has called for attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Uzbekistan, sharing details like synagogue locations and flight information from Tel Aviv.
  • Four attacks against Israeli businesses and cultural centers in Central Asia have been attempted since the conflict in Gaza began in October 2023, one of which was successful.

On December 21, 2023, a poultry farm called “Saxovat-Broyler” caught fire in the Pskent region near Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. The Ministry of Emergency Situations deployed five fire and rescue crews to extinguish the blaze, demonstrating the scale of the incident. Uzbek media provided no further details, except that there were no human casualties (Gazeta.uz, December 21, 2023).

On December 28, 2023, a report emerged that the fire was, in fact, a result of an arson attack, which was carried out by a group of four people in retaliation for the sufferings of Muslims in Gaza (Telegram/anserenko, December 28, 2023). The perpetrators chose the farm as their target due to its alleged ties with Israel and the United States. This has led analysts to forecast that Central Asia has a fully formed “anti-Israeli underground” that will carry out more attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets—or those thought to be associated with them—in the region in 2024.

The fire at the poultry farm became the latest and largest reported anti-Israeli attack carried out in Central Asia since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in October 2023. This article explores the effect of the conflict in Gaza on extremism in Central Asia and discusses attacks targeting Israeli and Jewish people and interests in the region. It addresses whether the unrest in Gaza will spark a new wave of terrorism and extremism in Central Asia.

Israeli Interests Under Attack

Since the start of the conflict in Gaza, four other attacks against Israeli businesses and cultural centers have been attempted, one of which was successful. In November 2023, the warehouse of joint Uzbek–Israeli enterprise Technopark was set on fire in an act of revenge for the suffering of Muslims in Gaza. Authorities have not identified the perpetrators (Telegram/anserenko, December 1, 2023). Local media briefly reported on the fire without providing any details and did not mention that it was an anti-Israeli attack (Telegram/NuzUzRu, November 24, 2023).

Of the three other foiled attacks, one was in Uzbekistan, while the other two occurred in Kazakhstan. On October 25, 2023, Uzbek authorities arrested an Uzbek and Kyrgyz citizen for plotting to attack the offices of Israeli companies in Tashkent (Telegram/anserenko, October 25, 2023). In response to these arrests, the Israeli Embassy in Tashkent strengthened security measures and Jewish cultural centers in the city closed down. A month later, between November 18 and 20, 2023, Kazakh authorities also arrested a group of Central Asians, including two Tajik citizens, for plotting attacks against Jewish cultural centers in Almaty (Telegram/anserenko, November 26, 2023). None of these incidents were reported in Uzbek and Kazakh media due to these states’ concerns that they would create widespread anti-Israeli sentiments.

Israel reacted to these incidents by sending an interdepartmental delegation consisting of Shin Bet officials and Mossad to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan in early December 2023. Their main task was to assess the risks posed to Israeli interests in the region (Telegram/anserenko, December 18, 2023). Israel maintains embassies in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Israel has gradually expanded security, socio-cultural, and economic cooperation with these three countries since the early 2000s (Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies, April 12, 2023).

ISKP Calls to Target Israeli and Jewish Targets

The lack of diverse media sources on these attacks prevents analysts from making certain conclusions about security threats to Israeli interests in the region, especially in the short-term future. However, Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) propaganda in the Uzbek language has encouraged attacks against Israeli interests in Uzbekistan and beyond. [1] At the end of October 2023, two pro-ISKP Uzbek Telegram channels shared photos and addresses of synagogues in Uzbekistan. Additionally, these channels posted details of the incoming flights from Tel Aviv to Tashkent, calling on Muslims to stop Jewish people from landing in the country. This is reminiscent of several anti-Semitic demonstrations against individuals coming off flights from Israel that occurred in the North Caucasus in late October (see EDM, November 2, 2023).

Second, the security measures taken by the Central Asian governments show that authorities view these threats as real rather than exaggerated. For example, on November 2, 2023, a video emerged of police officers guarding a Jewish cemetery in Kokand, Uzbekistan (Instagram/@yolyolakayuz, November 2, 2023). The man narrating the video stated the situation was stable, and no attacks have been recorded thus far.

For their part, Central Asian governments have remained neutral with regard to the conflict in Gaza. Since the start of hostilities, they have expressed concerns about the escalation of violence and have called on the two parties to resolve the conflict via diplomatic means (DARYO, October 9, 2023). At the same time, there have not been any large pro-Palestine demonstrations that could further spread anti-Israeli sentiments. So far, it has been the case that Uzbek authorities immediately shut down attempts to organize any such demonstration in Tashkent by dispersing the public and arresting the organizers (Gazeta.uz, November 1, 2023).


Terrorist organizations exploit themes of injustice and the suffering of Muslims in their recruitment efforts. These themes are prevalent in the coverage of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and they are powerful enough to resonate with Muslims in Central Asia. With multiple Israeli and Jewish business interests and cultural centers in the region being targets and the steady flow of propaganda, the unfolding conflict in Gaza is capable of inspiring extremists in the region to carry out more attacks. Having seen the end of the extremism wave sparked by the emergence of Islamic State (IS), the region now faces the risk of dealing with a renewed wave emanating from Gaza.



[1] The names of these Telegram channels cannot be shared publicly because naming them in an article will lead to their closure, thereby prohibiting researchers and analysts from monitoring them.

[2] Data for this article was collected by the author in collaboration with the Center for Information Resilience’s “Afghan Witness” project.