A daycare manager from central Israel was indicted on Sunday on 18 counts of child abuse of nearly a dozen toddlers and infants who were under her care, days after shocking footage of the violence sparked protests across the country.
Carmel Mauda, 25, who ran the Baby Love center in Rosh Ha’ayin, was accused of systematic violence against 11 children, three months to three years old, between May 27 and June 16.
According to the charge sheet, Mauda would “on numerous occasions” attack the children, including covering them with blankets and sitting on them to prevent them from moving; tying up a child “for minutes to hours”; lifting the toddlers by the arms and throwing them to the ground; shaking babies; forcing children to stand, facing a wall, for hours; hitting the toddlers with diapers, slapping them, and pulling their heads back while obstructing their breathing.
“In one of the cases, the minor was forced to eat the contents of a plate on which he had vomited,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors were seeking to keep Mauda behind bars until the end of the legal proceedings, calling her a danger to public safety.
Mauda was arrested in June, but on Thursday, police released footage of the alleged abuse, leading to widespread anger against her and protests outside her home.
The graphic security camera footage showed Mauda tying up children, force-feeding them, using blankets to smother toddlers who didn’t fall asleep and physically abusing them.
— ידיעות אחרונות (@YediotAhronot) July 7, 2019
According to Hebrew media reports, Mauda initially denied abusing the children. But when she was presented with the filmed evidence, she told investigators, “I am a monster,” and “I was Satan here.”
The case emerged after Mauda hired and fired eight different employees to work in her daycare center over the past year, the last of whom alerted the authorities to the abuse, the Walla news site reported. An unnamed assistant was also arrested on suspicion that she had witnessed the abuse and may also have resorted to violence.
Parents have been engaged in a protest campaign since the footage emerged, with an additional 11 demonstrations planned across the country on Sunday, under the banner “The people demand an end to the violence.”
הגננת המתעללת האכילה בקיא, קשרה לכיסא, הכתה והתעללה בפעוטות: לפני כשבועיים התקבלה תלונה בדבר התעללות בתינוקות בפעוטון שנוהל בביתה של גננת בת 25 מראש העין. עם סיום החקירה, יוגש בקרוב כתב אישום נגד החשודה pic.twitter.com/TGejEEnrRo
— משטרת ישראל (@IL_police) July 4, 2019
Also Sunday, a teenager suspected of setting Mauda’s house on fire over the weekend will be brought before a court for an extension of his remand. Police said Saturday evening that they arrested the 18-year-old combat soldier from the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron in connection with the suspected arson.
The home of Mauda was damaged by the blaze in the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin, as were several nearby residences. There were no reports of injuries in the fire.
Hebrew-language media said the suspect is related to parents of a boy who had previously attended the daycare. According to Channel 13 news, there is security camera footage of him at the scene of the fire. The home is also the site of the private Baby Love daycare center, where the alleged abuse took place.
“The parents of the children are angry and shocked over the grave crimes that were committed, but are not criminals and I have no doubt that a thorough investigation will conclude they have no connection to the fire,” Benjamin Malka, a lawyer for the families, told Hebrew media.
On Saturday night, a group of parents gathered outside the prison where Mauda is being held and staged a protest.
Parents are demanding changes to childcare oversight laws, including tougher sentences for abusive daycare workers and better regulations for supervision of daycare centers.
In recent years numerous cases of abuse have been reported, including the killing of an 18-month old baby girl by a carer.
In June of 2018 the government came under fire for the continued delay of a proposed supervision law as ministries squabbled over funding the project. The law was finally passed in December, but only mandates security cameras in all daycare centers starting in September 2020, as long as 70 percent of the parents do not object.