MI5 chief says Gaza conflict could provide 'twisted inspiration' for UK attack

MI5’s Director General Ken McCallum expressed deep worry over violence in the UK as a result of the Israel-Gaza conflict, ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports

Amid the destruction and devastation on both sides of the Israel-Gaza war, one question stands out for those charged with the security of Britain: Will the violence spill onto the streets of our country?

MI5 is deeply worried. The intelligence agency, which has the task of defending the UK from overseas threats, is concerned about at least three possible terrorism scenarios that flow from the crisis in Gaza:

  • Islamic extremists attacking Jewish or Israeli targets in the UK, as a reaction to the Israeli bombing of the enclave.

  • An attack on Britain’s Muslim community from a lone-wolf Islamophobe.

  • A state actor like Iran striking out against its enemies on British soil.

I had the rare opportunity to discuss these threats with MI5’s Director General Ken McCallum.

He is here in California at a summit of five closely-aligned Western intelligence agencies, known as Five Eyes.

Normally, the five secretive agencies - from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - work almost exclusively in the shadows.

Director General McCallum told Robert Moore his officers are working continuously to protect Britain’s Jewish and Muslim communities.

But for the very first time they have agreed to let the media glimpse their collaboration.

They are gathered here - and have conducted interviews - to focus on the dangers of economic espionage from China.

The spy chiefs insist that it has reached a critical level, endangering free societies and our way of life. By going public they want to highlight the dangers to a much wider audience.

Inevitably, the crisis in the Middle East has gatecrashed the summit and that agenda.

Now there is concern not just about Beijing’s aggressive espionage, but about violence on the streets of Western cities, exported from the Israel-Gaza conflict.

We’ve seen it already this week in Brussels, where an Islamic extremist shot two people dead on Monday, claiming he was inspired by ISIS.

We saw it in Illinois when a young Palestinian-American child was stabbed to death in what appears to be an anti-Muslim hate crime.

Director General McCallum told me that his officers are working continuously to protect Britain’s Jewish and Muslim communities. But there is no mistaking his concern.

As he told me, “My teams are very much alert to the risk that events in the Middle East right now could provide some form of twisted inspiration for some of our citizens to mount some kind of attack.”

He says MI5 is working night and day to keep Britain safe but acknowledges there is an exceptional range of threats that means his agency is fully stretched in its counter-terrorism role.

MI5 has unraveled 40 terrorist plots since 2017. But the Director General says he sees new risks “every day” and says that the UK’s threat level - currently at “substantial” - is under constant review. 

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