Israeli Teen Arrested for JCC Bomb Threats

Israeli police arrested a teen for allegedly making bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and other sites. There have been at least 165 such threats in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Police responded to a threat to a JCC in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 8. Bryan Woolston/REUTERS

Updated | An Israeli teenager is under arrest for allegedly making bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and other sites in multiple countries, Israeli police announced Thursday. The individual, 19, allegedly made dozens of calls, police said. The police worked with the FBI to track down the teen.

Israel's police force tweeted that the threats "created panic and a halt in activity" and "caused significant economic damage and had impacts on the public order, including the urgent evacuation of citizens and several sites and public institutions."

Related: Ex-journalist Juan Thompson allegedly made bomb threats to JCCs, ADL

Israeli Police Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld said the teen has both American and Israeli citizenship, and that he allegedly made threats to places in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It was not immediately clear what specific sites he allegedly targeted, but Rosenfeld said, "He's the guy who was behind the JCC threats," according to the Associated Press. The teen reportedly used computer systems to make it difficult to trace his identity.

As of March 16, there had been 165 bomb threats to Jewish institutions and other sites in 2017, mostly to JCCs and Jewish schools, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The threats have generally come in waves. There have also been anti-Semitic acts such as vandalism at several Jewish cemeteries. It was not immediately clear how many of those threats the Israeli teen is allegedly behind.

"Relieved and thankful to law enforcement for arresting suspect in #bombthreats to Jewish institutions," the ADL tweeted Thursday. "While motivation is unclear, the impact is crystal clear. Calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions is an #antiSemitic act."

The individual is reportedly Jewish, but the ADL tweeted, "The impact of these actions were #antiSemitic, regardless of the background of the perpetrator."

In a statement, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect made a similar comment: "It doesn't matter where any suspect is from or what his or her background is." The center also said it had received anti-Semitic messages on Thursday following news of the arrest. "The theme of the anti-Semitic messages has been this: See it's your people, Jews, who are responsible."

The JCC Association of North America said in a statement Thursday that it is "troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community reportedly Jewish."

The teen is a resident of Ashkelon, The Times of Israel reported, a city of 119,000 in the southern part of the country. Citing the police spokesman, the outlet said the person also made threats to Delta Air Lines, resulting in the grounding of a flight in 2015.

Thursday's arrest is the second in response to the threats. In early March, police arrested Juan Thompson, a journalist from St. Louis. Authorities believe that Thompson made at least eight threats to Jewish institutions in January and February as a way of harassing an ex-girlfriend. People who knew him in college said he never seemed anti-Semitic. His arraignment is scheduled for April 5.

At the time of Thompson's arrest, the Secure Community Network, which provides security resources to Jewish organizations, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate and extremist groups, emphasized that Thompson was allegedly responsible for only a few of the many recent threats.

Law enforcement experts had previously speculated that the threats could have come from overseas, CNN and CBS reported.

This article has been updated to include statements by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and the JCC Association of North America.