WORLD NEWS
Jewish hacker 'is bomb hoaxer'

A 19-YEAR-OLD Israeli is alleged to be behind most of the 150 bomb-threat calls to Jewish centres in America.

The American-born Jewish youth was arrested yesterday and is being quizzed by police.

The suspect, who lives in Ashkelon, was described as a "hacker".

He holds both Israeli and American citizenship.

He is also suspected of instigating a series of threats to Jewish communities in Europe, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months.

Most of the bomb-threat calls in America were to Jewish community centres, although some were made to Jewish schools and even synagogues. All turned out to be malicious hoaxes.

Israeli police alleged that the suspect made dozens of calls claiming to have placed bombs in public places and private companies, causing panic and "significant economic damage" and disrupting public order.

A gag order on the investigation was lifted yesterday by magistrates at Rishon LeZion, near Tel Aviv.

Police searched the suspect's house and are trying to piece together the breadth and methods of his alleged operations.

Few details about him have been disclosed, but it is known that he is not in the army and is not ultra-Orthodox.

Israeli media said he had been found unfit for compulsory service in the military.

At some point he made aliya and possibly has psychological and social problems, the Jerusalem Post website reported.

The suspect's father has also been detained and is being questioned about whether he knew about his son's alleged activities.

These include use of a large antenna and other unusual hardware which could have drawn suspicion.

It is unknown how many others might have worked with the suspect, the Jerusalem Post said.

But, it added, "it is believed that he was the main operator of the scare-spree and might have even acted completely on his own". Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said: "There was a significant breakthrough in the investigation which led us to make the arrest of the suspect who lives in southern Israel.

"He was the main suspect behind the numerous amount of threats which were made to different Jewish communities and organisations around the world".

Rosenfeld added: "We are trying to see if - and how - he was connected to the different Jewish communities in America.

"We are also looking to see if there was an incident which triggered him to carry out threatening those communities.

"He didn't use regular phone lines. He used different computer systems so he couldn't be backtracked."

Rosenfeld alleged that the suspect called Delta Airlines in February, 2015, and made a false threat about explosives aboard a flight from Kennedy airport in New York. The threat allegedly led to an emergency landing.

America's Anti-Defamation League said there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centres and schools in 37 states and two Canadian provinces since January 9.

Those threats "led to evacuations of the buildings, upset Jewish communities and raised fears of rising antisemitism".

They were also were accompanied by acts of vandalism at several Jewish cemeteries.

The threats led to criticism of President Donald Trump's administration for not speaking out fast enough.

Last month, the White House denounced the threats and rejected "antisemitic and hateful threats in the strongest terms".

The head of a Jewish community centre in New Jersey that had been targeted by bomb threats says he is thankful that America and international law enforcement prioritised the investigation and have caught a suspect.

Jordan Shenker, head of the Kaplen Jewish community centre in Tenafly, says he is "cautiously optimistic" that the man arrested in Israel acted alone and that the threats will be over.

He added that the arrest "has led to a feeling of being able to exhale".


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