Seven more suspects arrested in alleged gang rape of teen girl in Israel
Israeli police have arrested seven more suspects – all of them minors – in the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat – as thousands took to the streets to protest government policies on sexual violence, according to reports.
Eleven people have so far been detained in last week’s incident, which has outraged the nation and drawn disgust from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it “a crime against humanity,” The Times of Israel reported.
The first two suspects arrested are in their late 20s and from northern Israel. On Saturday, two 17-year-old boys from southern Israel were arrested, according to local reports. Seven additional suspects were arrested Sunday.
Meanwhile, the manager of the hotel where the alleged rape took place also was arrested Sunday on suspicion of failing to prevent a crime and interfering in a police probe, the news outlet reported.
A senior police official said investigators have evidence that strengthens the victim’s claims.
“This whole case is based on her testimony and this testimony is supported, among other things, by the findings we have collected so far,” he told Channel 12, according to The Times of Israel.
“This is a shocking rape that went on for long hours,” he said, adding that investigators have sensitive material they are not willing to disclose yet.
One of the 17-year-olds who were arrested Saturday denied any involvement, but authorities believe he took an active role in the attack, public broadcaster Kan reported.
Police believe the number of attackers was likely in the double digits, according to the Walla news site, with initial reports suggesting the number was as high as 30.
But the number has been called into question after the girl’s lawyer said that figure had not come from her client, The Times of Israel reported.
The case has sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish state, after testimony indicated that the attackers had lined up outside the intoxicated girl’s hotel room, waiting their turn to rape her as eyewitnesses failed to intervene.
Meanwhile, thousands turned out Sunday across Israel in calls for reforms.
In Tel Aviv, about 1,500 demonstrators gathered in Rabin Square, as smaller rallies took place in the cities of Haifa, Kiryat Ono, Beersheba and other communities, The Times of Israel reported.
“No means no! What part of that don’t you understand?” protesters chanted in Tel Aviv. “It’s not a mistake! It’s policy! Stop! Enough! Blame the rapist.”
Moran Zer Katzenstein, one of the organizers, said from a stage: “I had the luck to not be raped, but some of my friends were… I’m here in the name of dozens and hundreds of women who are saying, ‘Stop! Enough!’
“I’m not a speaker or an activist. This is the first protest I put together in my life. I don’t represent any organization and tonight this is a personal gathering because we can’t bear to hear about more assaults or rapes,” she said, the Ynet news outlet reported, according to The Times of Israel.
Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Tzipi Brand asked how a 16-year-old girl could have been gang-raped raped “right under our noses?”
“The indifference of the system led to the destruction of a young girl’s life. We need to change everything — the language, the textbooks and the history books,” she said.
Earlier Sunday, thousands of Israelis observed a symbolic work stoppage to denounce sexual violence against women, Agence France-Presse reported.
The hour-long strike was held “to protest the growing violence against women and girls in Israel, and lack of sufficient punishment,” said women’s group Bonot Alternativa — or Building an Alternative.
Ariel Peleg, one of the organizers, told AFP that at least 30 organizations and companies, including municipalities and Microsoft Israel, took part in the vigil.
Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog said his organization also joined the strike.
“I call on all public institutions in Israel to join this important protest. It’s in our hands,” Herzog said in a tweet.
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