Police on Sunday said they had arrested seven more suspects, all of them minors, in connection with the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.
In the statement, police also said they were seeking to extend the remand of two minors arrested on Saturday and an adult detained last week.
The first two arrests were of men in their late 20s from northern Israel. The two minor detainees held since Saturday are 17 years old and residents of southern Israel, according to Hebrew media reports.
There have now been 11 people detained in direct connection with the alleged assault.
Additionally, the manager of the 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.
A senior police official told Channel 12 that investigators have evidence that strengthens the 16-year-old victim’s claims about the case.
“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 period of time, and the investigators have sensitive material they are not willing to reveal yet.
“This is a shocking rape that went on for long hours,” he said.
The first 17-year-old suspect who was arrested on Saturday denied any connection to the case, but police believe he took an active role in the assault, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
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 been called into question.
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.
Thousands of people went on strike on Sunday at 12 p.m. to protest sexual violence against women, with a number of prominent businesses and organizations saying they were supporting the initiative.
Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog said his organization was also joining the strike.
“I call on all public institutions in Israel to join this important protest. It’s in our hands,” Herzog tweeted.
Additionally, protests against sexual violence were expected to be renewed around the country on Sunday evening after hundreds demonstrated in response to the incident around Israel on Saturday night.
The demonstrators are demanding a budget increase for programs combating violence against women, changes to the justice system, and better medical support for sexual assault victims, among other measures.
Law enforcement officials on Thursday said witness testimony provided by a friend of the 16-year-old girl strengthened the case against one of the main suspects.
Police 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.
Additionally, it was reported on Saturday that a woman, 19, was questioned on suspicion of attempting to obtain a video of the alleged assault. The woman was detained by the police after it 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 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.