Israeli Minister Says Female Soldiers Will Continue Serving in Security Prisons Despite Rape Allegations

This comes after Gantz demanded that soldiers be barred from doing their compulsory service at prisons with security inmates until a full investigation into the matter is conducted

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Israel's Gilboa Prison.
Israel's Gilboa Prison.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said Wednesday that soldiers cannot be barred from doing their compulsory service at security prisons without the amendment of legislation on the matter.

Bar-Lev's statement was a response to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has demanded that the public security minister immediately bar soldiers from doing their compulsory service at prisons with security inmates – usually Palestinians convicted of national security offenses – following suspicions that some female guards were raped by Palestinian inmates. Gantz called for the directive to take effect until the completion of a full investigation into the matter.

In his response letter Bar-Lev said female soldiers in compulsory service are, according to current legislation, "only in charge of guarding and accompanying security prisoners," as well as administrative work. He added that the law bars the soldiers from being in the company of prisoners.

Bar-Lev also presented the findings of a recently appointed inspection team, which determined that "all of those who serve [in security prisons] expressed willingness to continue serving as career soldiers," adding that "all soldiers receive a briefing about sexual harassment upon their arrival at the unit." He also noted that all issues concerning security prisoners have been under the purview of the Israel Prison Service since 2005.

In response to Bar-Lev, Gantz said he agrees that the two ministries "need to have a conversation about the compulsory service at security prisons. This conversation will take place soon. ... We'll proceed quickly and thoroughly, and if need be we'll amend legislation."

At least two female guards have said they were raped by the same security prisoner at Gilboa Prison – claims that led to Gantz's original letter.

Gantz also said he will revisit the posting of both male and female soldiers to units that oversee security prisoners. "There needs to be an examination of what conditions are needed to make this kind of service work, and what is needed to maintain the guard's physical safety," Gantz wrote in his letter.

Last week, a former guard at Gilboa Prison said that she was raped by a Palestinian prisoner convicted of security-related crimes, alleging that her commanders "handed [her] over to the attacker."

The revelation by the guard, a soldier doing her compulsory military service at the prison, came three days after a gag order was lifted on word of serious sex crime allegations against the guards. The police’s Lahav 433 national investigations unit is probing the matter.

The investigation has shown that, at the request of security prisoner Mahmoud Atallah, an intelligence officer allegedly assigned female guards to his prison wing and that Atallah then raped them. Police questioned the officer Wednesday as part of the ongoing probe.

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