Rallies held in dozens of locations, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv after 16-year-old girl says she was raped by over 30 men in Eilat hotel; two 27-year-old suspects detained so far as police set up special unit to deal with large number of alleged rapists
Matan Tzuri, Nina Fuchs, Itamar Eichner –
Israelis across the country took to the streets on Thursday night to express their revulsion at the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl by more than 30 men in an Eilat hotel last week.
Protests took place in 33 locations, including the major cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat, the Red Sea resort city where the alleged rapes took place.
Protesters in Jerusalem hold up a sign reading: How to stop rape: Don’t rape
(Photo: Shalev Shalom)
Earlier Thursday, Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court granted a five-day remand extension for of one of the suspects in the case.
The 27-year-old suspect is one of just two men arrested so far in the alleged rape. The teenager filed a police complaint on Friday, stating that she had been attacked by more than 30 men in her room in at the Red Sea Hotel two days prior. The hotel denies any involvement in the alleged attack.
According to the police investigation, the 27-year-old is a resident of northern Israel and has appeared to have exchanged text messages with the alleged victim. In one of the messages, the suspect says he has video recordings of the rape.
Lior Ronen, who represents the suspect on behalf of the Public Defender’s Office, said: “The case is being conducted behind closed doors and is under gag order. Therefore, all we can say is that the man denies any connection to the affair and we are waiting for the police to review his version of events soon.”
The other suspect, also aged 27, has been charged with rape, conspiracy to commit a crime and failure to prevent a crime.
“My client’s version of events is that some of the time he was in the room and some of the time he was not,” his attorney Ofra Siboni told the jcourt.
“He could not prevent the 30 or so men from having sex with the girl. He was afraid of them.”
The hotel where the rape allegedly took place was the subject of widespread criticism for its handling of the situation, and for continuing to advertise Rosh Hashanah deals concurrently with the police investigation.
“Shame on you,” wrote one user on the hotel’s Facebook page. “For not posting a post condemning the shocking incident that took place at your establishment, for not apologizing for failing to defend one helpless girl from 30 predators. Shame on you.”
“Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame on your sexist commercial and shame that you are not currently on every possible channel… trying to justify and explain how such a thing could have happened at your establishment without anyone knowing or trying to stop it,” wrote another user.
In response to the public outcry on Facebook, the hotel manager denied it was the site of the alleged rape.
The incident also shook lawmakers, public figures and women’s rights groups, who all expressed their shock at the alleged rape.
Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi also posted condemnation of the alleged attack: “What we see here is animalistic behavior of a bunch of immoral men… We hope they will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.”
Sofia Gordeev, the director of the Rape Crisis Center in Eilat, said: “We condemn the gang rape of the 16-year-old girl and any case of sexual violence in Eilat and anywhere else in the country. We work on a number of urban programs… meant to make residents the gatekeepers in case they see someone in distress. In addition, at the aid center, we accompany those men and women who were hurt by providing them with assistance. ”
According to a preliminary investigation, the minor traveled with a friend to the resort city where she met several of her friend’s acquaintances. They apparently began drinking alcohol and at one point the teen went up to one of the rooms to use the rest room. In that room, according to her, she was raped by dozens of men, each waiting to take their turn.
Media outlets reported that security camera footage from the hotel showed men lining up in the hallway waiting to take their turn raping the girl.
Due to the high number of possible suspects, police have set up a special investigative team.
The outrage over the alleged assault began pouring in late Wednesday, when the case was first made public.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “crime against humanity.”
“My wife and I read this morning about the suspected gang rape in Eilat. It is horrid, there are no other words to describe it. It is not just a crime against this girl, but a crime against humanity, deserving of every condemnation,” Netanyahu said.
The Israel Women’s Network said in a statement: “Thirty men wait in line to rape a 16-year-old girl, and the world still stands and the headlines still deal with the same issues. The life of a young woman was shattered into smithereens. Our hearts go out to her.”
Joint List MK and former chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality Aida Touma-Suleiman described the alleged assault as “evil.”
“Another gang rape by 30 violent men, an incomprehensible evil. The thought that a 16-year-old girl had to deal with that situation is mortifying,” she said.
“She deserves a support system that will back her claims with the required sensitivity and quickly collect forensic evidence. We cannot abandon victims in the face of the bureaucratic hell of the police and the justice system.”