‘Threat has gotten higher’

There has been a noticeable increase in anti-Singapore sentiments on social media from around the region since the Oct 7 attack by Hamas in Israel and the retaliatory military action by Israel in Gaza.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday that the comments have come from those who see Singapore as being pro-West or pro-Israel.

“Some have said that Singapore is Tanah Melayu, on Malay Lands – as a parallel, they say, to Israel being on Palestinian land. There have also been calls online for Singapore to be targeted using ‘rockets’ and ‘bombs’,” said Shanmugam, who was speaking at a National Day Awards event to recognise Home Team officers.

He said groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as their supporters, have also used the current conflict to renew their calls for attacks.

“The threat is there, and it has gotten higher,” he added.

The war started on Oct 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostages. The Israeli strikes in Gaza have killed more than 12,000 people, including 5,000 children.

A temporary ceasefire took hold in the Gaza Strip on Nov 24 after 48 days of conflict, but both sides have said the war is not over.

Shanmugam noted that the attack by Hamas involved a high level of tactical planning and coordination, but was done with relatively low-tech equipment and weapons.

It caught Israel, a high-tech society, completely by surprise, he said, adding that from a security perspective, there are lessons to learn.

“An attack, like what happened to Israel, could happen anywhere, including here, and there will be people who will be encouraged to do copycat attacks,” said the minister.

He said Singaporeans can and should sympathise with the civilians who are suffering, call for and pray for an end to the violence, and contribute to trusted humanitarian drives.

“But we have to be careful not to let what is happening in the Middle East undermine the peace and harmony we have in Singapore,” he said.

The minister noted that most Singaporeans see Singapore’s religious diversity as something that makes the country a better place to live in. This has to be protected, he said.

Speaking at the Ministry of Home Affairs’ National Day Awards investiture ceremony held at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Shanmugam said Home Team officers face other significant security challenges including scams, online criminal harms, misinformation, foreign interference and drugs. — The Straits Times/ANN

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