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Israel Arrests Suspect In Threats Against Jewish Community Centers

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to a head-spinning development in the investigation of all the bomb threats that have been made to Jewish organizations across the U.S. in recent months. Israeli police say they have arrested the person responsible. He is a Jewish teenager with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. Here's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Following a joint investigation by the FBI, the Israeli police and other international law enforcement organizations, officers raided the teenager's home Thursday morning in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. Police say they discovered advanced electronic equipment and suspect he used it to cover up his identity and location while calling in the bomb threats. Local TV news showed the suspect being brought to the courtroom with a blue sweater pulled up over his face.

Police say he is Jewish and around 18 or 19 years old. His name is under gag order. Micky Rosenfeld, the spokesman for the Israeli police, says the suspect is responsible for the majority of the bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions in the U.S. in recent months.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICKY ROSENFELD: Well, at the moment, we're trying to build the profile as to exactly what his motives were. It has to be clear, and it has to be clear cut as to why a Jewish-Israeli man would carry out threats to Jewish institutions, buildings, communities and threatening them.

ESTRIN: Police say one of his bomb threats targeted a Delta Airlines flight in early 2015. And they say he also made threatening calls to institutions in Australia, New Zealand and Israel. Police say his father is also being held in connection with the bomb threats but wouldn't elaborate. A lawyer for the teenager suggested his behavior could be due to a growth in his brain that cannot be surgically removed.

The Jewish Federations of North America said it was heartbreaking to learn a Jewish man is suspected of making the recent bomb threats to Jewish institutions. The Anti-Defamation League said it was relieved at the arrest and praised U.S. law enforcement but still expressed concern about anti-Semitism in the U.S. It pointed out that no arrests have been made in the recent desecration of Jewish cemeteries and other anti-Semitic incidents.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUFIT ERDAG'S "OGHLAN OGHLAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.