Man arrested on suspicion of impersonating police officer to threaten far-right MK

Tel Aviv resident suspected of using device to spoof officer’s number in phone calls to Itamar Ben Gvir and others

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir makes his way to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City during the Jerusalem Day celebrations, May 29, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir makes his way to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City during the Jerusalem Day celebrations, May 29, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police said Wednesday that they arrested a 31-year-old resident of Tel Aviv on suspicion of impersonating police and threatening citizens, including far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir.

The man is suspected of having made numerous phone calls using a device to spoof the telephone number of a police officer located in the northern part of the country, and in some conversations identified himself using the officer’s name.

The cyber department of the police’s Northern District traced the location of the device used to make the phone calls and identified the suspect, who has not been publicly named.

Once the suspect was located in Tel Aviv, police arrested him on Tuesday evening. He was brought to court in the northern city of Tiberias on Wednesday, where his detention was extended until Sunday.

Ben Gvir was threatened with death in a recording released Tuesday, having previously been the subject of other such threats and a foiled Hamas-backed assassination plot.

“I’m on my way to you… I prepared a cartridge with 16 bullets. I will take care of you, your wife and your children,” a man could be heard telling Ben Gvir in a recording of a phone call.

“You will get to know my gun up close, my cartridge from up close,” the caller continued. “You harmed our nation too much and your time will end.”

During the conversation, Ben Gvir could be heard asking the caller, “What will you to do me?” He also asked the man his name and where he lives.

The caller identified himself as Ismi Abbed, a police officer from northern Israel. Police said at the time that he was not member of the force.

Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, left, and Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party at an election campaign tour at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on March 19, 2021, four days before the general election. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After receiving the call Monday, Ben Gvir claimed during a Knesset plenum session that he was the victim of incitement from government leaders.

“Naftali Bennett called me and my colleagues ‘poison,’” Ben Gvir said, referring to an open letter the prime minister published last week calling on the public to express continued support for his crisis-ridden government.

In the letter, Bennett denounced what he called a “deadly poison machine” of opposition lawmakers such as former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben Gvir, Ayman Odeh and Bezalel Smotrich.

“I say to you — enough incitement, words can kill,” Ben Gvir added.

Ben Gvir, who heads the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit faction of the opposition party Religious Zionism, received a similar threat after he was barred from leading a nationalist march through Jerusalem’s Old City in April.

And last month, the Shin Bet announced it had foiled a Hamas-backed assassination attempt of Ben Gvir, among other terror activities.

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