Federal law enforcement officials held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday with leaders of numerous area synagogues to discuss the potential of terrorist threats during the upcoming High Holidays.
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) were joined by security experts from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security at the in Syosset. The meeting was planned in advance of and unrelated to the attack on the on Sunday.
But in interviews after the meeting, Israel and King said Tuesday's session was in response to credible evidence that terrorist cells are active in the United States and have the capability of striking U.S. targets. Synagogues and other Jewish institutions are "obvious targets," Israel said.
Both men stressed there is no specific evidence of a threat against any Long Island institution. The meeting, they said, was precautionary.
"What makes this year different is Iran," King said in an interview. "We have to assume there is a greater chance of attack."
King said terrorist cells affiliated with Hezbollah have already made attacks inside the U.S. and remain a threat to Americans.
Hezbollah is an Islamic militant group based in Lebanon that receives financial and political support from Iran and Syria. Its military wing has had long-standing struggles with the state of Israel. Perhaps its most notorious act against the United States was the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines.
Rep. Israel said Tuesday's meeting was in response to elevated concerns about general terror threats in the United States and ways local synagogues can be more prepared during the High Holidays.
"We are reminded by recent events that there are people who want to do harm to synagogues and the Jewish community and others," Israel said. "It is better to be prepared than to panic."
Both Israel and King said local synagogues and other institutions can requests security assessments by the Office of Homeland Security. Federal agents will inspect local synagogues, community centers and similar public places to assess whether further security measures are called for.
"It's a way of making the community more secure," said King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
"We want people to know they have a direct line to police agencies and they should get their own security assessments," King said.