Victim's family expresses relief, thanks investigators

Police say they have cracked Eilat gang rape case, found 17 suspects

Testimony of 16-year-old girl reliable, police say; charges could be filed next week; key suspect claims he tried to help victim, but police say he admitted filming act

Eilat's Red Sea Hotel, where an alleged gang rape took place in mid-August 2020. (Channel 12 screenshot)
Eilat's Red Sea Hotel, where an alleged gang rape took place in mid-August 2020. (Channel 12 screenshot)

The Israel Police announced Thursday that investigators have managed to solve the case of an alleged gang rape earlier this month in a hotel in Eilat, and found the teenage victim’s version of events to be reliable.

In a statement, police said 17 suspects in the case had been identified, 14 of whom have been arrested.

“Investigators managed to reconstruct the timeline of events at the Red Sea Hotel and reach all the suspects involved in the case of the 16-year-old girl’s rape,” police said.

“The victim’s testimony was found to be reliable and has been strengthened by the evidence,” police added.

Hebrew-language media reported that indictments against the suspects will likely be filed next week.

The case shocked the country and spurred calls for reforms, as testimony indicated that a large group of men lined up outside the intoxicated girl’s hotel room, waiting their turn to rape her, as eyewitnesses failed to intervene.

Channel 13 reported that police investigators believe 10 people had been in the room at the same time during the rape.

The network quoted the victim’s family expressing relief that the investigation was over relatively quickly, and thanking the investigators. It said the girl herself was “stunned” to hear the news.

Earlier Thursday, a key suspect in the alleged gang rape denied any wrongdoing, while police claimed he admitted to filming the assault.

Ahead of an Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court session in the case, the man — his head covered by a towel — told reporters at the courthouse he attempted to help the victim and never assaulted her.

“The truth will come to light,” he said. “You’ll be hearing a lot from me. We’ll respond in an orderly fashion.”

However, a police representative told the court the man admitted to filming what happened inside the hotel room.

The man, a resident of Hadera in his 20s, is regarded as one of the main suspects among the 14 arrested thus far in a case that has roiled the country.

His remand was extended Thursday by six days along with that of another main suspect, also from Hadera.

Ten of the arrested suspects are minors, and all of their names are barred from publication by a court order.

Four suspects have been released from custody under restrictive conditions, with the rest remanded by the court.

Eilat Red Sea Hotel owner Pnina Maman (Channel 12 screenshot)

The manager of the Red Sea Hotel, where the alleged assault took place, was questioned and placed under arrest on Sunday on suspicion of failing to prevent a crime and interfering in a police investigation. On Monday she was released to house arrest.

On Sunday, hundreds protested in Tel Aviv against government policies on sexual violence, with smaller rallies taking place in Haifa, Kiryat Ono, Beersheba and other locations. Also Sunday thousands of Israelis observed a symbolic work stoppage to denounce sexual violence against women. The hour-long strike at noon was held “to protest the growing violence against women and girls in Israel, and lack of sufficient punishment,” said women’s group Building an Alternative.

Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir said Monday he would form a professional team to create a plan for the prevention of sexual violence at hotels and increase guests’ security at establishments.

Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the 16 year old victim of an alleged gang rape in Eilat, in Tel Aviv. August 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A senior police official told Channel 12 Sunday that investigators have evidence that strengthens the 16-year-old victim’s claims.

“This whole case is based on her testimony and this testimony is supported, among other things, by the findings we have collected so far,” he said.

The official said the evidence indicates the rape went on for a long time, and the investigators have sensitive material they are not willing to reveal yet.

“This is a shocking rape that went on for many hours,” he said.

Investigators believe the number of assailants was likely in the double digits, the Walla news site reported. Initial reports indicated the number of assailants was as high as 30, but the girl’s lawyer said that figure had not come from her client, and it has since been called into question as it reportedly came from the first suspect who was arrested.

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