Female soldiers no longer to guard security prisons amid suspected sex scandal

Soldier serving as guard allegedly had intimate relationship with prisoner jailed for deadly terror attack; other soldiers also suspected of inappropriate contact with him

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative: View of Gilboa Prison, near the Jordan Valley, December 5, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Illustrative: View of Gilboa Prison, near the Jordan Valley, December 5, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

An IDF soldier serving as a prison guard during her mandatory military service is suspected of having an intimate relationship involving sexual activity with a Palestinian security prisoner, it was reported on Friday.

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court placed a gag order on many of the details of the case, including the location of the prison.

Shortly after news of the incident broke, Israel Prison Service Commander Katy Perry and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir issued a joint statement saying that all female IDF soldiers would “immediately stop” serving as guards in security prisons.

The joint statement added that the move would be implemented in the coming days to allow for a short period for the IPS to prepare for the switch. Stopping the service of female IDF soldiers in security prisons has been repeatedly pushed for, including by Ben Gvir, but has stalled due to a lack of manpower to replace the female soldiers.

According to the Ynet news site, which first reported the case, over the past year, the guard in question allegedly established ties with the prisoner, a Fatah member convicted of involvement in a terror attack in central Israel that led to the deaths of Israelis.

The prisoner allegedly possessed a phone inside his cell used to keep in touch with several of the female guards and exchange photos, according to initial findings by the IPS. It was unclear from the report if the phone was provided by one of the guards.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (center) listens to Israel Prison Service chief Katy Perry (left) during a visit to Nafha Prison, January 6, 2023. (Israel Prison Service)

Ynet reported that there is a suspicion that a consensual physical interaction occurred between the guard and the prisoner.

The matter was reported to the IPS security department, which then passed the information to the police. According to Ynet, the prison’s commanders were unaware of the relationship.

A suspect in the case was questioned by police on Thursday, where she revealed four others were involved in inappropriate contacts with the prisoner. She was released to house arrest on Thursday. The five soldiers are said to be nearing the end of their mandatory service.

The guard’s lawyer argued that the prisoner threatened his client into a non-consensual relationship, but a senior police official told Ynet that evidence suggested otherwise.

The Palestinian inmate was transferred from his cell to a segregated wing Friday morning and will be questioned later, IPS said in a statement.

File: National Security Itamar Ben Gvir visits south Tel Aviv, September 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

In a statement, Perry said that due to the “severe incident” in question, the IPS would “take all necessary steps and have zero tolerance for instances of [violating] moral values.”

Perry said that IPS has led a massive recruitment drive in recent months and has brought on 1,000 new guards in order to replace the IDF soldiers who will no longer be serving in security prisons.

Ben Gvir said earlier Friday that the “horrifying report” proves the need to dismiss female soldiers from guarding security prisoners.

“Immediately after I began my role, I insisted on this, and since then took significant steps on the matter, and the presence of female soldiers in [prison] wings has been reduced,” he said.

The minister issued an order in January to begin the process of permanently halting the placement of Israel Defense Forces soldiers as prison guards for incarcerated terror inmates.

The decision came more than five months after then-defense minister Benny Gantz ordered an investigation into the arrangement last August, following bombshell accusations that convicted terrorists had assaulted and raped female soldiers serving as prison guards, and that some prison guards had “pimped out” the conscripts to placate inmates.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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