Half a century after the Yom Kippur War, Hamas’s surprise attacks on Oct. 7 echo the infamous 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. This day has also been likened to Israel’s own Sept. 11 by diplomats and commentators, intensifying its contemporary resonance. Moreover, in the annals of the War on Terror, Oct. 7 holds powerful symbolic value for additional reasons: it marks the onset of the US war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001.
As President Biden warns Israel not to repeat these mistakes twenty-two years after the United States initiated its War on Terror, al-Qaeda remains resilient and reactive. Its response to Oct. 7 is worth unpacking for its implications to the broader extremist landscape. Despite ongoing debates among analysts regarding the organization’s strength, al-Qaeda and its affiliates continue to operate, govern territory, and launch attacks across various regions. And the Oct. 7 attacks may have just catalyzed a shift in extremist alliances, unfolding a new chapter in the global jihadist narrative.
While the Islamic State (ISIS) labels Hamas as “apostates” for their Iranian links and perceived failure to enforce Islamic law, al-Qaeda’s transnational network welcomed the Oct. 7 attacks with endorsements of solidarity. Al-Qaeda’s “General Command” lauded the operations as a “turning point in history” and a “once in a lifetime opportunity for Muslims to “liberate Palestine.” By Oct. 13, various al-Qaeda factions from East Africa to the Sahel echoed this sentiment, hinting at a possible convergence of extremist narratives that could resonate within the global militancy landscape.