A Jewish teenager with American and Israeli dual citizenship was arrested Thursday for a string of recent bomb threats that terrorized Jewish community centers in three continents.Israeli police announced the arrest of a 19-year-old for phoning in the phony threats, but refused to release his name. He shielded his face from media as guards escorted him out of a justice court in Rishon Lezion.
His lawyer told reports the teen suffers from a “very serious” medical condition that kept him out of school and the Israeli army, and may have affected his behavior.
“This is one of the things the judge told the police to check, to talk to his doctors, to get more documents and to investigate him according to his medical situation,” attorney Galit Bash said.
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His motive for the alleged scare spree is a mystery and it’s unclear how many threats he may be tied to. Police said he used sophisticated camouflage technology to disguise his voice and location when making calls.
Israeli authorities worked with the FBI and other international law enforcement to crack the case. During his arrest, the teen tried to grab an officer’s gun until another cop stopped him, police said.
“Today’s arrest in Israel is the culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents for hate crimes against Jewish communities across our country,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
The suspect, covering his face.
(JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs. I commend the FBI and Israeli National Police for their outstanding work on this case.”
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The suspect is a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, and he is believed to have threatened centers in America as well as New Zealand, Australia and several European countries, authorities said. The threats stretch back at least six months.
The teen’s father has also been detained for questioning
More than 150 Jewish centers and schools across America have been hit with false bomb threats this year, with dozens sometimes coming in seemingly coordinated calls on one day.
Juan Thompson, a disgraced former journalist who lost his job in 2016 for fabricating stories, was arrested earlier this month for at least eight of the threats. Police said his wave of terror appeared to be a form of retaliation against an ex-lover.
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President Trump faced fierce criticism in February for his apparent suggestion that Jews might be placing some of the threats to make others look bad.
The Jewish Community Center in Tarrytown, N.Y., one of many hit with fake bomb threats this year. It was not immediately clear if this was one targeted by the teen suspect.
In a meeting with state attorneys general, Trump reportedly remarked about the threats, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people, or to make others, look bad.”
Only later did he condemn the threats and the rise in reported anti-Semitic incidents in America.
Jewish groups commended law enforcement for the arrest and said the calls still spoke to a spike in anti-Semitism.
“Even though it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
“JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”
With News Wire Services
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