Israel Closes Case Against Shin Bet Officers for Invasive Cavity Search of Palestinian Woman

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Palestinians wait to cross the Qalandia checkpoint, West Bank 2017.
Palestinians wait to cross the Qalandia checkpoint, West Bank 2017.Credit: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP

Israel closed the case Wednesday against three Shin Bet agents who allegedly instructed two female soldiers to conduct an invasive cavity search of a Palestinian woman during an arrest in the West Bank in 2015.

A special team including members of the unit that investigates police misconduct and investigators from the military police, which handled the investigation, was unable to determine who allegedly gave the order to execute the search.

The prosecution is expected to close the cases against an additional three soldiers, who were suspected of being involved in the affair.

The decision came four years after the six agents were investigated for ordering the soldiers to conduct the search against the law.

The incident occurred in 2015 when an IDF detachment was sent to arrest the Palestinian woman, a West Bank resident who was suspected of actively abetting those engaged in terror activity.

Despite the more serious suspicions against her, she was ultimately convicted of less serious crimes and sentenced to two years in prison, after which she was released.

At least two Shin Bet members accompanied the group to the woman’s home and arrested her. Sources knowledgeable about the investigation told Haaretz that the operation aimed to collect mobile phones, tablets and media materials in the woman’s home, whose identity Haaretz protected out of concern for her safety. She said the troops entered her home during the night while she was asleep.

After her arrest, one of the men from the Shin Bet allegedly ordered two female soldiers in the group to search her private parts. They took her aside, stripped her and performed a body search in accordance with instructions from one of the men from the Shin Bet and an IDF officer, who was at the scene – apparently the brigade commander or battalion commander.

Associates of the Palestinian woman said she told them that the search was “from the front and from the back,” in other words, both vaginal and anal probes.

Both female soldiers conducted a search separately, so that each of her organs was probed twice. Nothing was found in the searches.

“She was humiliated and helpless,” her friend said at the time. “After the incident she was in shock. To this day she cannot forget the event or share it with anyone. She is afraid it is something her family will not accept and perhaps they will be angry at her for not having resisted.”

An associate of hers said in 2018 that the incident traumatized her. “It’s perfectly clear that there was no justification for the humiliating search that reached the level of sexual offenses and even the head of the Justice Ministry unit realized the gravity of it and pushed for opening an investigation. All the cell phones were found and she herself helped the soldiers, but after what happened she was crushed. She is an educated woman who immediately understood that something wrong had been done. She is unaccustomed to anything so debasing. To this day she is afraid the incident will become known and since she is a traditional woman – she fears her reputation will be ruined.”

The woman filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry unit, but very little was done about it. 

While her complaint was under investigation, the woman was released from prison. She left Israel on a foreign passport and is living abroad. She hasn’t returned to the Palestinian territories.

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