Police arrested on Saturday a third suspect in the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at an Eilat hotel earlier this month.
According to Hebrew-language media reports, the suspect is a 17-year-old from the south of the country. Two suspects in their late 20s from the northern city of Hadera have previously been arrested.
Police believe the 17-year-old took an active role in the assault, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Additionally, it was reported that a woman, 19, was questioned on suspicion of attempting to obtain a video of the alleged assault.
The woman’s detention came after police received a screen grab from a WhatsApp group in which a member asked if anyone had video of the incident. The woman responded: “Share, don’t hold back.”
According to Channel 13 news the woman was released after apologizing and saying she wrote the message without thought or intent to harm.
Social service workers providing assistance to the alleged victim since the incident told Channel 12 on Friday that they are highly concerned about her mental health. They said she is terrified by the possibility that footage of the alleged rape could be released online.
Police have increased security around her home following what law enforcement said was an increase in “violent online discourse” against the girl over the case.
The case has sent shockwaves throughout Israel, after testimony indicated that a large group of men lined up outside the intoxicated underage girl’s hotel room, patiently waiting their turn to rape her, as eyewitnesses failed to intervene.
Law enforcement officials reportedly believe witness testimony provided by a friend of the 16-year-old girl has strengthened the case against one of the main suspects.
Police on Thursday staged a confrontation between the friend, who traveled to Eilat with the alleged victim, and the suspect, who is believed to have been the first to rape the girl at the Red Sea Hotel, according to Friday Hebrew media reports.
The alleged victim’s friend stuck to her version of the incident during the confrontation, and investigators deemed her testimony credible and a clear description of the night’s events, the Ynet news site reported.
The witness said she and her friend booked a room at a different hotel in the coastal city on the evening of the alleged incident, but were invited to the Red Sea Hotel, where several of their friends were staying. The witness said her friend drank too much alcohol there and began feeling unwell.
“I took her to the room of a friend, who’s like a brother to me that I trust completely. She was barely responsive [at that point],” she said.
The witness said she then left her friend briefly to buy snacks.
“When I returned to the room I saw a crowd of people. I saw people coming in and out, I banged on the door and no one answered me. I shouted and screamed her name, and there was no answer. Suddenly, a naked man opened the door,” she told police, the reports said.
“I burst inside and saw my friend lying on the bed, unresponsive. I would say almost unconscious. I felt she did not understand what was going on around her. I immediately ran to call for help,” she said.
The alleged victim’s friend said the two of them left Eilat the next day.
“We did not speak [about what happened]. I think we were in shock, traumatized. It took us a while to gather strength. We had to understand what exactly happened to us, or more specifically, what happened to her. We both knew she had to file a police complaint,” the witness said.
She added that her friend vaguely remembers men coming in and out of the room, but she did not know exactly how many there were.
Sources familiar with the investigation told the Ynet news site that, while an initial investigation suggested that as many as 30 men participated in the rape, the number is more likely to be in the single digits.
The teen’s lawyer Shani Moran said Friday her client was not in any condition at the time of the alleged assault to determine the number of suspects involved.
“She did not see the men outside the room, she was not in a position to stand up,” Moran said. “I am asked about the number 30 — she had no expectation or requirement for the police to reach a round and accurate number of 30 people.”
Channel 13 reported that the 16-year-old told police investigators that she wants to confront her alleged attackers, after hearing that one of the main suspects denied the allegations against him during an interrogation. The supervised interaction is expected to take place over the weekend, the network said.