Police on Saturday arrested a suspect for allegedly raping a woman in front of her children after breaking into her home in Gedera, triggering protests in the southern town.
Along with the main suspect, a 22-year-old who was nabbed in the West Bank, six other people were arrested in connection to the case. Police did not say what the others were suspected of.
All of the suspects are residents of the “Bedouin diaspora,” a series of unrecognized communities in the Negev Desert.
According to the statement, the evidence so far raised “a suspicion toward one family, which likely works in the city.”
Police touted the quick arrests and said the force’s actions were aimed at “restoring the required security to the public,” after facing criticism from Gadera’s mayor and residents. Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai released a separate statement praising the force’s response.
“The Israel Police will do everything to bring the rape suspect to justice and will demand a serious punishment,” Shabtai said.
Police suspect the suspect was not planning a burglary, according to Hebrew media reports Saturday that cited an initial investigation as saying he man broke into the home with the intention of raping the woman, who is in her 30s.
On Friday morning, the women reported the incident in a neighborhood WhatsApp group chat.
“My house was broken into. I was raped in front of my children. Be careful and lock your doors,” the woman wrote in her neighborhood in the morning, hours after the alleged rape took place.
Security footage was said to show the suspect approach the building, then leave the area an hour later.
האונס בגדרה: החשוד תועד משוטט בשכונה, פורץ לדירה – ויוצא ממנה שעה אחרי
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) February 3, 2023
Gedera Mayor Yoel Gamliel hailed the arrest, a day after accusing police of “incompetence” and of failing to protect his constituents amid a series of unsolved break-ins. In a statement, Gamliel said he hoped the “despicable criminal” would be punished severely.
His criticism the day before came as protests were held in Gedera.
“We woke up this morning to news of a shocking incident that has shaken the entire Gedera community and the entire State of Israel. We are witnessing the price of police incompetence, which time and again has abandoned the citizens of Israel,” he said Friday. “We are at the forefront of the war on crime, yet we have received no response from the body entrusted with the enforcement of law and order.”
“A situation in which innocent citizens are left to fight on their own against burglars, car thieves, illegal aliens and violent criminals is unacceptable,” the mayor said.
Police responded by hitting back at the mayor’s “irresponsible” accusations and accusing him of seeking to “gain headlines and political capital on the back of a victim.”
Gamliel said he invited National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who oversees police, to visit the town. Ben Gvir vowed to crack down on crime in the south as part of his campaign platform during last year’s election.
Ben Gvir arrived later in the day but was heckled by some of the 100 people who staged a protest in front of the mayor’s house, demanding that personal safety be restored in Gedera.
On Saturday, he praised the arrests and said he instructed police to focus on Gadera residents “sense of security.”
“There is still a lot more to do and change for it to be safe here,” he wrote on Twitter.
The local police force is understaffed, with only 10 officers assigned to the town’s over 30,000 residents, Channel 12 reported.