JCC bomb threat suspect said behind over 1,000 calls
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JCC bomb threat suspect said behind over 1,000 calls

Targets reportedly included institutions in US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as two Delta flights forced to land

An American-Israeli Jewish teenager (right), accused of making thousands of violent telephone threats and other crimes in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by a guard as he leaves the court in Rishon Lezion, March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
An American-Israeli Jewish teenager (right), accused of making thousands of violent telephone threats and other crimes in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by a guard as he leaves the court in Rishon Lezion, March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The Israeli-American teenager suspected of being behind the recent bomb threats to JCCs and other American Jewish institutions reportedly made more than 1,000 threatening phone calls over the past two years.

The suspect, whose name is being withheld by a gag order, is alleged to have targeted schools and other public institutions in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Sunday.

Reports said he delivered the threats over a period of two years. He is believed to have been behind at least two threats to Delta Airlines, resulting in the grounding of planes already in the air.

Israeli police only managed to zero in on the suspect after US President Donald Trump sent a team of 12 FBI agents to Israel in recent weeks, Haaretz reported.

Although the investigation has been ongoing for the past two years, the breakthrough that led to the Thursday arrests of the teen and his father was only reached after FBI investigators arrived in Israel several weeks ago, the daily said, citing police sources.

Illustrative photo of police tape at the JCC in Nashville, Tennessee, after the community center received a bomb threat on January 9, 2017. (Screenshot: The Tennessean)
Illustrative photo of police tape at the JCC in Nashville, Tennessee, after the community center received a bomb threat on January 9, 2017. (Screenshot: The Tennessean)

Trump’s intervention is significant, as he had been heavily criticized for not doing enough to end the threats to Jewish centers and for not emphatically condemning anti-Semitsm.

The report did not specify what the FBI agents managed to do that their local counterparts could not.

The suspect, who lives in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, is refusing to talk to authorities and police have still not managed to access his computers.

While the youth had apparently been making bomb threats for over two years, the urgency in apprehending him increased following a spate of threats to Jewish community centers in the US.

Police sources told Haaretz that that was in part because the suspect would monitor media reports after he’d call in a threat — to gauge the scale of its impact. If he noticed that it was receiving considerable media attention, he would continue making threats in that same location.

Several of the JCCs and Jewish organizations received multiple threats. However, police believe that the number of bomb threats he phoned in was much greater than was known to the public, as many went unreported.

Police are still struggling to uncover exactly what or how he did, as he has not been cooperating with police, citing his health.

His lawyer, Galit Besh, said her client had a “very serious medical condition” that may have affected his behavior. She added that the condition had prevented him from attending elementary school, high school and enlisting in the army.

“That’s why the medical condition can actually affect the investigation,” she explained. “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 in light of his medical situation.”

Channel 10 said the condition was a nonmalignant brain tumor. Police are currently waiting for the child’s mother to retrieve the proper medical documentation proving his condition.

They have also failed to break into his computers and they say that he had no social media footprint under any name they know.

He reportedly grew careless and failed on at least one occasion to route his internet connection through a proxy, leaving behind a real IP address traced back to Israel.

The father of American-Israeli Jewish teenager, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, sits in the Israeli Justice court in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
The father of American-Israeli Jewish teenager accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, sits in the courthouse in Rishon Lezion, March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Police are also working to gather information from the teen’s father, who remains in custody on suspicion that he knew what his son was doing. The dad, a computer expert himself, was likely to have recognized the high-level equipment in his son’s room, yet did not report the matter to authorities.

The suspect’s mother is also expected to be interrogated in the coming days.

Israel authorities are also preparing for the possibility that the US will ask for the suspect’s extradition. While such a request has not yet been made, it is believed that Israel would likely comply.

There is also the possibility that commercial companies damaged by the suspect’s bomb threats may file civil lawsuits against him.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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