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Teenager Arrested For Threatening Jewish Centers

Israeli police have arrested an 18-year-old man for making a series of threats to Jewish community centers across the globe going back to the beginning of 2017. The suspect holds dual citizenship in both Israel and the U.S.

The young man, whose name has not been released, has been arrested for allegedly making anonymous threats to Jewish community centers in Australia, New Zealand the U.S., as well as to a commercial airline flight. Israeli authorities believe that the suspect made the majority of the over 100 threats against Jewish centers so far in 2017. It is unclear how long the suspect has been issuing threats.

The investigation that led to the suspect's arrest had been led by both Israeli police and the FBI.

"This specific investigation was complex in terms of the suspect and its nature, and there was a significant breakthrough in the investigation which led us to make the arrest of the suspect, who lives in Southern Israel," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post.

"As part of the ongoing investigation, we are trying to see if and how he was connected to the different Jewish communities in the U.S.," Rosenfeld added. "That directs the investigation as to the American connection. We are looking to see if there was an incident which triggered him to carry out threatening those communities."

The suspect has not been formally charged, but will be held until March 30, pending a medical evaluation. The teenager's father has been temporarily detained on suspicion that he had either aided or abetted the threats.

The suspect's lawyer, Galit Bash, released an official statement through the office of the Israeli Public Defender asserting that his client was afflicted with a medical condition, The New York Times reports.

"He suffers from a brain tumor that may have had an effect on his cognitive functions," Bash said. The lawyer noted that his client's tumor had prevented him from going to regular schools with peers and from also from being enlisted in the Israeli military service.

On March 23, the suspect was arrested in his home by an Israeli cyberattack unit. Authorities found computers and digital items on the premises that had enabled the teenager to allegedly make threatening phone calls without being traced, Haaretz reports.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement in response to the suspect's arrest.

"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 National Police for their outstanding work on this case."

JCC Association of North America CEO Doron Krakow released a statement expressing dismay about the identity of the suspect.

"We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all -- is reportedly Jewish," Krakow said.

Sources: HaaretzThe Jerusalem Post, The New York Times / Photo Credit: Chajm Guski/Flickr

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