Police Arrest Third Suspect in Gang Rape of 16-year-old Girl in Israeli Resort Town

Two men, aged 27, were arrested earlier this week and are currently viewed as the main suspects in the case

Almog Ben Zikri
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The Red Sea Hotel in Eilat, August 22, 2020.
The Red Sea Hotel in Eilat, August 22, 2020.Credit: Liav Peled
Almog Ben Zikri

The Israel Police said Saturday that they arrested a 17-year-old man suspected of involvement in a gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at a hotel in the southern town of Eilat.

The suspect, who is the third to be arrested out of allegedly 30 other men, denies any involvement in the case.

On Wednesday, police launched an investigation into the affair, arresting two men aged 27, who are currently viewed as the main suspects in the case.

The Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court later extended the detention of the two suspects by five days.

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 town. The police said she wasn’t a guest at the hotel, but was spending time there with her girlfriends and male friends of one of her friends, who were drinking together.

According to the police, the girl needed to use the bathroom, and she was taken to one of the hotel rooms. There she was allegedly raped by a group of men, some of whom did not know each other previously.

Police have refused to say how many men were mentioned in the girl’s complaint, but the lawyer of one of the suspects arrested on Wednesday said that according to her client, 30 people were involved in the assault.

The men allegedly raped the minor while she was drunk, and some filmed the abuse with their cellphones.

But police question the fact that 30 people were involved and have said they are looking into the matter. In addition, it was decided to bolster police presence near the home of the girl for her own protection. Police, however, added that they have no information about any intention to harm the girl or her family.

According to a source familiar with the investigation, security cameras in the hotel where the incident took place showed people outside the room where the girl was staying and some people going inside. Police are analyzing the footage to identify other men who are allegedly involved.

One of the girl's relative said that "at this point, we are just trying to process what had happened to us. We want to preserve our privacy."

Text messages sent to the 16-year-girl from the cellphone of one of the suspects said that the rape was filmed. Police are working to trace the videos, if they do exist, and prevent their circulation on social media.

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 Haaretz query 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.    

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