A US-Israeli man has been arrested for making dozens of hoax bomb threats against Jewish centers in the US and around the world, Israeli police said on Thursday.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the suspect was a 19-year-old “resident of the south (of Israel) from the Jewish community” and had been arrested after an international investigation involving the Israeli police and the FBI.
Since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in January, whose campaign rhetoric was often divisive, there has been a growing climate of hostility in the US, with minorities and foreigners attacked and Jewish cemeteries vandalized.
US federal authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organisations, including more than 100 bomb threats in separate waves over the past three months against Jewish community centers (JCCs) in dozens of states.
The incidents have stoked fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism and forced the evacuation of many centers, including some with day care for young children.
“The investigation began in several countries at the same time, in which dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organisations,” a police statement said.
It said that the investigation was undertaken in cooperation with the FBI “as well as other police organisations from various countries.”
“We believe he is responsible for the wave of calls, bomb threats, made to Jewish community centers in the United States,” the police spokesman said, naming Australia and New Zealand as other countries he allegedly targeted.
He said the suspect, whose home was searched on Thursday, began making the calls three months ago, using advanced masking technologies.
“We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government,” Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement.
The suspect, who has not been named, has lived in Israel for many years, according to Haaretz, and he was found unfit for military service.
He was home-schooled, the Israeli newspaper added, and is refusing to cooperate with police.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the arrest reflected the government’s determination not to tolerate hate crimes.
“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,” Sessions said
“I commend the FBI and Israeli police for their outstanding work on this case.”
Earlier in March, a disgraced former journalist, who had been exposed for plagiarism during his career, was also arrested on suspicion of hoax threats against Jewish centers in the US.
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