A former prison guard who claims she was repeatedly raped by a terror inmate during her service at the Gilboa Prison seven years ago described to Channel 12 how the alleged incidents happened, accusing administrators at the site of “pimping her out as an escort girl” for her assailant.
The unnamed woman, a female former IDF soldier who had served as a prison guard, alleged last month that she was repeatedly raped by the prisoner, an accusation that has roiled the Israel Prison Service and has been followed by further claims of sexual assault by other former soldiers who served in the jail. The accusations have included claims that prison administrators were either complicit or ignored the incidents.
Using the pseudonym “Hila,” as she has since first making her allegations, the woman described how the prisoner built up a relationship with her soon after they met. The prisoner was identified by the network only by the Hebrew initial “Ayin,” and at the time was the representative for the Palestinians charged with terror, referred to in Israel as security prisoners, at the facility.
She said that the first time she saw him he told her that he wanted her to be his guard. By the next shift, she was in fact assigned to be his guard, she said.
Hila has in the past claimed that Ayin wielded great influence on prison life, apparently ensuring quiet among other prisoners in exchange for favors from administrators.
Problematic interaction began with suggestive remarks he made to her, then “progressed to small touches, to see what I do in that situation. Like when I would handcuff him, and he would start petting, rubbing, getting closer,” she said.
Throughout her service Ayin repeatedly “showed me that he is the only person who cares,” Hila said. She recalled that after another prisoner touched her inappropriately she reported the matter to a superior. Ayin also heard about the incident and told her “don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” He later broke the other prisoner’s hand.
“The atmosphere in the prison was such that they knew Ayin likes me, favors me,” she said.
Gossip among her fellow guards was “that Ayin is a pervert. That was the talk. So if among the guards they knew that and were talking about it, how much more so that the commanders should have known. Even if they didn’t know, they should have known.”
Then, near the end of her service period, Hila said she was told to assist a sergeant and a senior administrator of the prisoners’ wing in a check of supplies. The other two staff members left her alone as they went to get something to eat “and then, of course, Ayin arrived, because he would always arrive.”
Ayin suggested to her they should continue counting stores together and told her to exit a guard observation post to join him.
Hilla said she told him he should start alone and that she would watch but Ayin insisted that she needed to take a closer look at what was going on. Ayin, she recalled, assured her that he would not harm her, saying, “I won’t do anything to you.”
As soon as she left the guard post, Ayin closed the door leading to the prisoner section, she said.
“He basically locked me between the gates in a place where there are no cameras, in a place where no one can see what’s going on, just me and him,” she said.
Then he raped her for a period of several minutes, she said.
“I froze, I didn’t speak,” Hila said. She described how Ayin gripped both her arms as he assaulted her.
“I also can’t understand what happened,” she said.
Eventually, Ayin released her and Hila ran back to the observation post.
“I quickly tidied myself up and simply caught my breath,” she said.
When the other prison staff returned she said she was “really terrified.”
Similar incidents happened afterwards, Hila alleged.
“They gave him more than three opportunities to do this,” she said.
Hila said she is certain that superior officers at the prison knew what was going on.
“After the first time Ayin released me and before I quickly entered the prison room, I saw the intelligence officer looking into the prison room — he looked and saw that I was not there. He heard, even if they didn’t see, they heard me slam the door,” she said.
“I think that they preferred to turn a blind eye rather than deal with it as I was anyway going to be released in a few weeks, and I would continue to keep quiet,” she said. “I don’t talk, I don’t make a fuss, and I don’t make a big noise.”
“They preferred that it should continue to be quiet” rather than looking into what Ayin was doing to her, she said.
Ayin also convinced Hila that her life and those of her family were in danger from another prisoner, Amjad Awad, who was convicted with an accomplice of murdering five members of one family in a 2011 stabbing attack at the Itamar settlement. Hila claims that fear was used to keep her in check.
Her attorney, Keren Barak, who is also representing other women alleging that they were abused in the prison, said that according to Hila, the prison intelligence officer also told her that she was under threat from Awad.
“She was gripped with fear, because they made sure to scare her throughout her service that her life was in danger,” Barak told Channel 12.
In the years since her release, Hila has blamed herself for what happened.
“All those years I thought I was the only one, that I am guilty, that I brought him to the situation. The very fact that I was silent because of the fear and terror I was in then, that is what brought him to perform such acts on me. I feel that the system simply pimped me out and turned me into an escort girl and gave me the feeling for so many years that I was to blame, that I was the one who opened the door for him, that it was all me.”
Hila is now seeking financial and mental rehabilitation, Channel 12 reported.
“I just want to take care of my soul, because my soul is wounded and it’s scarred and it needs treatment,” she said.
“Today I feel as though at the age of 19 I entered prison, a prison in which a terrorist who murdered a woman and committed a series of attacks against the country has permission to harm, to attack, to rape the female soldiers who come to serve the country,” Hila said.
The prisoner Ayin’s attorney Ramzi Katilat said in a statement that “the allegations of rape several years later were intended to clear her conscience after she, during her service, abused her position and initiated sexual contact with a security prisoner.”
The Israel Prison Service responded with a statement saying: “These are serious allegations about an incident that happened a few years ago. We will wait for the results of the police investigation and will act on the findings with zero tolerance, in accordance with the organization’s policy.”
Last month the Ynet news site reported that a Palestinian prisoner convicted of terrorism, Mahmoud Atallah, was being investigated by police over sexual assault while behind bars.
Allegations that guards at Gilboa “pimped out” female IDF soldiers serving in the prison to Palestinian terror convicts have circulated since 2018. The case largely disappeared from the public eye after little evidence was found.
But last year the allegations returned to the forefront following bombshell remarks from Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben Shitrit. In November, Ben Shitrit — who was not at the prison when the incidents allegedly took place — said female soldiers who were guards at the prison had been pressed into serving as eye candy or worse for some inmates, as a means of keeping prisoners from getting out of hand.
Ben Shitrit made the claims during testimony before a commission of inquiry probing last September’s prison break by Palestinian terror convicts, which highlighted a series of shortcomings in the prison’s operations and sparked harsh criticism of the Prison Service.
Attention to the issue grew last month after Hila came forward with her story.
She made made her allegations in a post on crowdfunding site BeActive, where her attorney Barak set up a campaign to support her. In the post, said she was “handed over” by her commander to a dangerous terrorist “so that he could hurt me and sexually abuse me again and again,” and added that other female guards had suffered the same fate.
The renewed allegations led to a fiery Knesset hearing last week on the issue, and promises from government and prison officials to fully investigate the claims and make those responsible pay for their actions.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said last week that he had ordered the reevaluation of a years-long agreement allowing IDF conscripts to be drafted to the Israel Prisons Service, but Public Security Minister Omer Barlev replied that such a change would require new legislation.