Female Warden in Israeli Prison Says She Was Repeatedly Raped by Palestinian Inmate

The guard says she ‘was turned into a sex slave’ and that her commanders 'handed her over' to her attacker

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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The Gilboa prison in northern Israel, in 2021.
The Gilboa prison in northern Israel, in 2021.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

A female prison warden at the Gilboa Prison revealed on Thursday that she was raped by a Palestinian prisoner convicted of security-related crimes, alleging that her commanders "handed [her] over to the attacker."

“My commanders, my colleagues, who I thought were supposed to protect me, handed me to this terrorist,” she wrote in a crowdfunding campaign asking for financial help.

This week, the Central District Court in Lod partially lifted the gag order on the case, allowing to publish that the Palestinian security prisoner is suspected of serious sex crimes against the female wardens. The police’s Lahav 433 national investigations unit is investigating the case, which occurred a few years ago, based on information received in the sexual assault scandal at Gilboa Prison.

According to the investigation, the prison’s intelligence officer assigned female wardens, who were doing their compulsory military service in the Israel Prison Service, to the wing for prisoners convicted of security-related crimes at the request of one of the prisoners, Mahmoud Atallah, who then sexually assaulted them.

“They made sure I would remain alone with him, in violation of clear regulations, so he could attack me viciously and sexually abuse me time after time, and not just me, but many other female guards as well,” the female warden, who goes by the pseudonym Hila, said.

The court partially removed the gag order on the case after the Ynet news website petitioned the court on the issue. However, the remaining aspects of the case may still not be reported. Atallah is suspected of repeatedly raping the female warden.

Atallah was convicted of the 2003 murder of a woman in Ramallah who was thought to be working with Israel. He is currently serving a life sentence plus an additional 15 years and served as the spokesman for the Fatah prisoners wing.

The prisoner "went around the prison freely and wasn't chained. He reached with his filthy hands and touched the bodies of the soldiers without any interruption," the woman, who goes by the pseudonym Hila, claimed. "Everyone was aware. Everyone remained silent. Everybody was terrified," Hila said.

At the start of her employment at the prison "he came up to me and announced without any problem: 'You're coming to work for me on the wing!' I thought to myself 'The man must be insane,' but I soon discovered that I was assigned to his wing, and that's it. I couldn't get out of there," Hila added.

“I became a prisoner, his personal sex slave,” she wrote. “I was terrified of him … What were they thinking? That he would ‘just’ pleasure himself to [the thought of] me? That a female IDF soldier can be sacrificed in exchange for information? Peace? Money? I can’t even imagine what could possibly be obtained in exchange for a female soldier’s body.”

The warden claimed that other personnel were aware of Atallah's conduct but did nothing to stop or report them. "Senior officers were aware of everything he did to me and my soldiers friends and remained silent," Hila said. "Instead of paying them their lavish wages and pensions. They should be sent home. They belong in prison."

“Everyone helped [Atallah], everyone knew, everyone kept quiet, and everyone participated in this heinous abuse. Since the affair was reported, my secret that was known, was hidden from everyone. Maybe they thought I would keep this a secret till my death. I’m finished being ashamed. My shame is that of the country, of everyone who has been hiding and covering up this affair for years.”

In her crowdfunding campaign, Hila claimed she needed financial help for extensive counseling as well as a public fight to have a commission of inquiry constituted into the incident.

Police restarted their investigation into this case a few months ago in response to Freddy Ben-Sheetrit, the commander of the Gilboa Prison, testifying before an official state commission of inquiry regarding the Palestinian security inmates' jailbreak from Gilboa Prison last September.

Ben-Sheetrit accused Rani Basha, a former intelligence officer, with "pimping" female prison guards who were performing their compulsory military service. As a result, the police received further complaints and testimonies about Atallah's actions.

The police launched their investigation in 2018, after the female warden shared her account with the intelligence officer of the Northern District of the Prison Service. That investigation closed when no documentation of the complaint could be found – as it had disappeared.

Only after Channel 20 requested a response from the Prison Service on the matter did an investigation by the national unit for investigating prison warden misconduct.

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