Police arrested a man on Monday on suspicion that he traded images and videos of naked women and girls on the internet without their permission or knowledge, the Israel Police said in a statement.
Some of the media featured minors as young as 14, police said.
The suspect, 21, was arrested at his home in Ofakim in the south of the country following an undercover operation by the Tel Aviv region police department’s cybercrime unit.
Officers seized the suspect’s computer, storage disks and other evidence, the statement said.
Police said the “complex operation” took several months and probed the trade of nude photos and videos of a sexual nature of hundreds of women and dozens of minors in Israel on the Telegram app, without their agreement or knowledge.
The material was traded on dedicated groups on the app, some of which were hidden from the public.
During the course of the investigation, police were able to “overcome the network’s anonymity and security restrictions,” enabling them to break into closed Telegram groups.
Investigators uncovered several groups where the media was traded. Police did not say how the suspect was able to obtain the material.
There were over 250 victims and their ages ranged from 14 to late 30s, said Superintendent Nir Sadeh, head of the Tel Aviv cybercrime unit.
Not all of the victims are aware that photos and videos of them were spread on the internet. Investigators intend to contact some of the victims to get their testimony, Sadeh said.
The suspect was to be brought for a remand hearing on Tuesday at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
Dana Meitav, executive director of the Israel Women’s Network rights group, congratulated police on the arrest and said in a statement that all those who paid for access to the material should also be brought to justice.
“They are all sexual harassers according to the law” and distributing the images is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, she said in a statement.
“All enforcement authorities in Israel must form a united and uncompromising defensive line in guarding the safety of women and girls in order to create a deterrence,” she said and called for the suspect to be given the maximum sentence for his alleged crimes.
The police statement noted that the force is constantly using technological means to carry out investigations and gather online evidence against offenders and in particular against those who “blatantly intrude on the privacy of women and fatally harm their lives while exposing them in a degrading manner to the eyes of all.”