Israel Police to Extend Probe Into Rape of Seven-year-old Girl After New Information Emerges

Investigation, which will involve the Shin Bet security service, to focus on identity of two other suspects ■ Child interrogator questions victim's account

Josh Breiner
Yaniv Kubovich
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Members of the Israeli right-wing, anti-assimilation group Lahava protest outside the village where the Palestinian suspect lives, June 17, 2019.
Members of the Israeli right-wing, anti-assimilation group Lahava protest outside the village where the Palestinian suspect lives, June 17, 2019.Credit: Oren Ben Hakon
Josh Breiner
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israel Police said Tuesday night that it will carry out further steps to complete the investigation into the rape of a seven-year-old girl in a West Bank settlement due to new information it received on the case, which suggests that the Palestinian suspect may be involved in a different crime. 

The investigation is expected to focus on the attempt to locate the two Palestinian men who, according to the indictment, held the child down while she was raped. The Shin Bet security service will be requested to help in the probe, which is currently being handled by the police and the chief military prosecutor. 

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 31

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On Monday, the suspect was charged with kidnapping and raping the girl, whom he met at the school where he was employed as a maintenance worker. 

The defendant, Mahmoud Qatusa, is a resident of the West Bank village of Deir Qadis. He worked at an Israeli school in the Mateh Binyamin region in the central West Bank. According to the indictment, he developed a relationship with the child over an extended period, engaging her in conversation and giving her candy. 

Qatusa is still under arrest, and a hearing on his case is slated to be held on Wednesday noon. His attorney, Nashaf Darwish, announced following the police's statement that he intends to file a request to have Qatusa released from arrest as soon as possible. 

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

Police stated that "in order to fully clarify suspicions against others involved in the offense, and in light of new information that was received after the case had been made public, we decided to instruct the central unit at the Jerusalem District to carry out further steps in the interrogation." 

The police and the Israeli army also noted that "due to the sensitivity of the matter, we consulted the state prosecutor and other senior officials from the State Prosecutor's Office." 

Haaretz has learned that the child interrogator who obtained the testimony from the girl has said that the testimony was "weak and lacking," and that she couldn't determine whether the child spoke honestly. Investigation materials show that the interrogator, who interrogated the girl four times, made the statement following one of the main interrogations. The interrogator said that she could understand this was the case due to the fact that the girl is very young, and may also suffer from "other conflicts that are common among small children who suffered sexual assault." 

A source familiar with the investigation confirmed to Haaretz that the girl was not examined by a doctor working with the courts. The child was only examined by a doctor at a local clinic five days after she told her parents that she suffered sexual assault. The source said that in such cases, doctors carry out the examination even if several days or weeks have lapsed since the attack. The source also noted that findings from an attack can still be traced within such a time frame. 

Earlier Tuesday, Haaretz reported that the police failed to send to a forensic examination a child's underpants that were found near the apartment where the indictment alleges that the girl was raped. 

The building in which the alleged rape took place, Mateh Binyamin region, West Bank, June 2019. Credit: Gil Cohen Magen

The girl told investigators that the underpants belonged to her, and had an examination taken place police could have determined that it did, adding to evidence material in the probe. Such an examination could also have helped police trace DNA of the suspect, sources familiar with the investigation said.