Israeli Police Detain Three Suspects in Alleged Rape of 7-year-old in West Bank Settlement

A Palestinian man who worked in the settlement was indicted in the case, but was released after mishandling of the investigation emerged

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The school where Qatusa was employed, Mateh Binyamin region, West Bank, June 2019.
The school where Qatusa was employed, Mateh Binyamin region, West Bank, June 2019. Credit: Gil Cohen Magen

Police detained for questioning three men suspected of involvement in the alleged rape of a 7-year-old girl from a settlement in the West Bank on Tuesday, four months after an indictment against a Palestinian suspect was dropped.

Two of the men are Palestinian laborers who were previously questioned in the case, and third is a Jewish driver, a resident of the city where the girl lives, who regularly drove the men – and who is now being interrogated for the first time.

The two Palestinian men, who worked in the settlement where the girl lives at the time of the alleged rape, were first arrested in August on suspicions of aiding the person who carried out the crime. They were released, but the suspicions against them remained. 

Mahmoud Qatosa is released at the Bitunia crossing in the West Bank on June 25, 2019. 

Mahmoud Qatosa was under arrest for 56 days and was indicted for the alleged crime, but after a series of mistakes in the investigation were revealed, military prosecutors withdrew the indictment and he was released in June. Even though he was released, law enforcement still view Qatosa as a suspect in the case.

Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek and the head of the police investigations and intelligence branch, Maj. Gen. Gadi Siso, said when the indictment was withdrawn that the way the case was handled would be examined. 

The polygraph tests administered to Qatosa during the investigation were conducted in Hebrew, even though his native language is Arabic. In addition, the girl was never examined by a forensic physician, but only by a general practitioner from her HMO, who did not report on the allegations to the police.  

The police could not determine when the rape occurred exactly, and later in the investigation checked the possibility of whether it had occurred in a different apartment from the one they had thought originally. The girl said other people were present during the incident, but the police could not find any such witnesses.

The girl said she was raped on April 5. Qatosa, who was a cleaning and maintenance worker in an elementary school in the West Bank city where the girl went to school, told investigators that he was working that day and could not have committed the alleged crime, but the police never investigated his alibi. 

His Jewish employer checked out the alibi himself, and the owner of the apartment where Qatosa said he was doing renovations that day verified his claims and said he was with him all day. At that point, the police changed the timing of the rape to sometime between February and April, after the girl mentioned a few holidays around the time of the rape during her testimony.