Israeli Police Arrest Seven More Minors Over Alleged Gang Rape of 16-year-old

Manager of hotel detained on suspicion of obstruction ■ Nine minors arrested ■ Two 27-year-old men arrested this week said to be main suspects, as police comb security footage for more possible suspects

Almog Ben Zikri
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The Red Sea Hotel in Eilat, August 2020.
The Red Sea Hotel in Eilat, August 2020.Credit: Liav Peled
Almog Ben Zikri

Police arrested seven more minors from the south of Israel on Sunday who are suspected of involvement in an alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at a hotel in the southern city of Eilat, and intend on asking the court to prolong their detention.

Earlier the police arrested a 17-year-old who was the fourth suspect taken into custody, and extended his detention until Tuesday. 

Also on Sunday, police arrested the manager of the hotel where the incident occurred was detained for questioning on suspicion of obstructing the investigation and failing to prevent a crime.

The police seek to request the extension of the detention of the seven minors and the hotel manager, a statement said on Sunday night. 

A guest who arrived at the hotel on August 12, the day on which the alleged rape is understood to have occurred, told Haaretz that he had been disturbed by the conduct of the hotel and its manager. 

The guest said he arrived at the hotel around midnight. "All of the manager's denials over what happened there are a lie, because when I got to the hotel and to my room, a group of young people had gathered outside my room. I have no idea if they were the ones the police are looking for, but a large group of people had gathered there and were making a lot of noise," the guest said.

"I went down to the lobby to ask for their help, and it didn't matter, until it got to the point that, at 5 A.M., I went out screaming at the young people and just threw them out of the area. It was in the hallway where they were also smoking."

Although smoking at the pool was not allowed, and there are signs posted to that effect, the hotel employees did nothing to enforce it, the guest said.

"People were smoking in the water there, not just around the pool, and throwing cigarette butts in the water, and that included the lifeguard himself, who was smoking in the pool. There were crazy levels of music and alcohol. The lifeguard himself brought out a food container, filled it with ice so the young folks had somewhere to put their alcohol bottles. They simply opened a bar at the pool," he said. 

"I approached the hotel manager to tell her that it was over the top, including the fact that everyone had their own music speakers, and the issue of the smoking," he said.

"Her response was 'If you have a problem, you can complain to the municipal inspectors. I don't check what they're doing.'"

The guest added that "I told her to at least get them not to smoke in the pool. It's disgusting. She said, 'If you don't like it here, you can leave. That's what it's like. You will also have noise tonight and tomorrow too. '"

The police will request that a court extend the detention of three of the suspects arrested last week.  

Another 17-year-old was arrested earlier Saturday in connection with the case. According to police sources, it was not immediately clear whether he was in physical contact with the girl or was only present at the scene. He denies any involvement.

Police meanwhile say they have arrived at an estimate of the number of suspects involved, and are currently working to identify them, with one source saying the number is in the double digits.

Two 27-year-old men who were arrested this week have been described by police as main suspects with evidence against them that goes beyond security footage from the hotel.

The girl turned to police last Friday, saying that the rape had occurred two days earlier at the Red Sea Hotel in the southern resort city. The police said she wasn’t a guest at the hotel, but was drinking there with friends. She told police she had been in a dazed condition and was unsure about the exact number of people involved. One suspect said 30 people were involved, but police have cast doubt on the number. The police said they are investigating every claim, however. The police have also decided to boost the presence of police cars in the area of the girl’s home, although there is no information about intent to harass her or her family.

According to a source with knowledge of the investigation, hotel security cameras captured heavy foot traffic outside the room the girl was in, with some people entering. Police are analyzing the video to identify additional people to question.

In messages found on one of the adult suspects’ phone, the girl was informed that the alleged rape was filmed. Police are working to locate the videos, if they exist, and prevent their circulation.

On Friday, a 19-year-old woman was detained on suspicion of attempting to solicit their distribution. She wrote in a WhatsApp group she was a member of, “don’t be stingy, share,” after other members of the group asked whether videos of the rape indeed existed.

Later, the 19-year-old apologized and was released under restrictions. Responding to a Haaretz query about why only she was detained for questioning, while those asking about the videos were not, police said that inquiring about the existence of the footage does not constitute solicitation for its distribution.

One of the 16-year-old girl’s relatives told an interviewer this week: “At this point, we are just trying to process what has happened to us. We want to maintain our privacy and quiet.”

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