Pair sentenced to prison over 2020 gang rape of 16-year-old girl in Eilat

Beersheba District Court sentences primary convicts to 22 years and 14 years, respectively, for role in shocking incident; others awaiting sentencing

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 Beersheba District Court on Monday handed down lengthy prison terms to two men for their parts in leading the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at an Eilat hotel in 2020.

Issy Raphaelov, 31, received 22 years behind bars while Eliezer Meirav, 30, will serve 14 years, according to the court ruling.

The pair, both from Hadera, were also ordered to pay the victim NIS 200,000 ($55,172) and NIS 100,000 respectively.

The pair led a list of 11 suspects accused of taking part in a shocking gang rape that scandalized the country, with testimony indicating that men and boys lined up to assault the victim as eyewitnesses failed to intervene.

Raphaelov was convicted in September on two counts of rape and two counts of aiding and abetting a rape, as well as of indecent acts and invasion of privacy.

Meirav was convicted of rape and gang rape.

At least seven others are awaiting sentencing over the incident.

At the Monday sentencing, Judges Yael Raz-levi, Gilat Shalev, and Aharon Mishnayot rejected a defense claim that the perpetrators were not violent to their victim, noting that it has been determined in other cases that rape itself is an “aggressive and violent act.”

The perpetrators, the judges said, “showed not the slightest trace of empathy for the complainant.”

Illustrative: The Beersheba District Court in southern Israel, on December 1, 2019. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The victim was not present at the sentencing but presiding judge Raz-Levi addressed remarks to her, saying the court hopes she will “gather the continued strength to manage the course of her life.”

Prosecuting attorney Rotem Yohanani Har Zion said the sentences reflected “the severity of the acts committed by the accused and the depth of the damage, degradation, and humiliation caused to the complainant.”

“We hope that the messages of the court in the sentencing and the verdict will resonate, will be learned, and will help to prevent similar cases in the future,” she said.

Screen capture from video of Attorney Rotem Yohanani Har Zion at the Beersheba District Court, February 19, 2024. (Ynet. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Raphaelov’s defense attorney Nir Yaslovitzh told media that he respects the court’s decision although he doesn’t agree, indicating he would file an appeal.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel responded in a statement that the sentences were “a reasonable price tag for the abominable acts” committed by the two chief defendants.

It said it hopes the others convicted in the case, “which forced Israeli society to look at itself in the mirror,” would also be appropriate.

According to court papers, on the day of the rape, Raphaelov began talking with the girl at the pool of the Red Sea Hotel. She rejected his advances.

The girl, who had been drinking alcohol, later in the day felt unwell. Though not a guest in the hotel, she went up to a room with her friends. Raphaelov offered to assist her while allegedly pretending to be a medic, and, along with another person, brought her to a different room where he and others assaulted and raped her, as  others looked on.

Two young men, 19-year-old twins who were minors in 2020, were also convicted in the case and are to be sentenced at a later date, along with five others, including four who were minors at the time, convicted of aiding and abetting a rape, indecent acts and/or soliciting indecent acts

Another suspect in the case was convicted in January 2022 after he signed a plea bargain. The suspect, 17 at the time of his conviction, was found guilty of an indecent act for being in the hotel room at the time of the assault and watching the incident. Another minor was earlier convicted in 2021, also in a plea bargain, after admitting to indecent assault.

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