Police in Rosh Ha’ayin have arrested two more people suspected of torching the home of a local daycare manager charged with physically abusing young children in her care, Channel 13 news reported Sunday.
The suspects, 20- and 26-year-old residents of the central Israeli city, will be brought to the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing later on Sunday, the report said.
Adir Ratzon, 18, who is accused of setting fire to Carmel Mauda’s home and daycare center in Rosh Ha’ayin earlier this month, will also appear at the Petah Tikva court on Sunday, when prosecutors will seek to extend his remand.
No injuries were reported in the July 6 fire, but the blaze destroyed most of Mauda’s apartment building, as well as the Baby Love center on the roof where she was filmed abusing nearly a dozen children as young as three months old.
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— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) July 12, 2019
According to reports in Hebrew-language media, police are in possession of security camera footage and cellphone GPS data placing Ratzon at Mauda’s building both before and after the fire.
Investigators were looking into whether the 18-year-old suspect — who was involved in a separate arson incident last year in his home settlement of Karnei Shomron — had been hired to torch Mauda’s home. Hebrew-language media outlets have reported that Ratzon is related to the parents of a boy who attended Mauda’s daycare.
Ratzon has denied any involvement in the fire.
Mauda, 25, is being held at Neveh Tirza prison in Ramle, where she is awaiting charges in the case. She was arrested in June but police did not release footage of the abuse until earlier this month, leading to widespread anger against her and protests outside her home.
The graphic security camera footage released by police showed Mauda tying up children, force-feeding them, using blankets to smother toddlers who didn’t fall asleep and physically abusing them.
Hundreds of angry parents gathered outside Mauda’s home last week and thousands took to the streets across the country calling for increased oversight of daycare facilities, many of which are private and do not require licensing.
A day after the mass protests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Education Ministry would take full responsibility for all state-funded preschool daycare centers. The decision refers only to state-run facilities which are funded for ages three and above, at which time children are eligible to enter public preschools. It will therefore not affect any private daycare centers, including all daycare for children under three, as the parents had also demanded.
Currently, just 23 percent of the facilities across the country are under the auspices of the Education Ministry and subject to its oversight regulations. The remainder are overseen either by the welfare or economy ministries, both of which, parents say, have lower standards.