Police increase security around home of teen victim of alleged Eilat gang rape

Decision made due to ‘violent discourse’ online about case; teen said to be worried photos of assault will leak online; police working to clarify exact role played by each suspect

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)

Police increased security on Friday around the home of a 16-year-old girl who was the victim of an alleged gang rape by dozens at an Eilat hotel.

The decision was made by law enforcement officials following an increase in “violent online discourse” against the girl over the case.

The case has sent shockwaves throughout Israel, after testimony indicated that as many as 30 men lined up outside the intoxicated underage girl’s hotel room, patiently waiting their turn to rape her, as eyewitnesses failed to intervene.

The report came as the girl’s lawyer Shani Moran told Kan news that some people were trying to find out where they could view videos of the alleged gang rape, which is thought to have been filmed by suspects.

“We demand that the police do everything possible to recover [the videos]. My WhatsApp and email have been flooded with dozens of screenshots of correspondence of people who want to get their hands on the videos due to voyeurism,” Moran said.

Moran also said her client was not in any condition at the time of the alleged assault to determine the number of suspects involved, after the hotel owner said a group of thirty men would have been spotted.

“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.”

Aerial view of the southern Israeli city of Eilat, October 21, 2015. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The 16-year-old reportedly told police on Thursday that one of the men offered to send her videos of the incident. The videos all appear to have been deleted from the suspects’ phones, a Channel 12 report said.

The teen was said to be particularly worried that the videos or photos would leak online.

“The most difficult thing for her is the uncertainty about the photos. She is afraid that her photos have been distributed. She is just a girl who went to Eilat to spend time with friends,” an unnamed individual who had met with the girl’s family told the Ynet news site.

“She is in a bad mental state, but there are a lot of professionals around her along with her family members. It is a warm and loving family that does not leave her alone for a moment.

“She is a good girl and an excellent student. They took advantage of her when she was in a bad situation,” the individual said.

A taskforce of 20 police investigators hopes to determine by the end of Friday exactly how many men were involved in the alleged attack, and what role each of the suspects played.

According to a report by Channel 12 news, police are assuming that some men raped the girl while others stood by and watched or filmed, without helping the girl escape the ordeal.

The list of suspects who were involved in the alleged assault was to be compiled after the teen’s friend testified to police.

Additionally, the special police team took footage from security cameras in the hotel and are trying to identify further suspects using the footage.

Two suspects in their late 20s from the northern city of Hadera have so far been arrested. According to Channel 12 news, one of the suspects has denied involvement.

The outlet also reported that police have determined that the alleged attack took place at the Red Sea Hotel, despite claims from the owner that there was no evidence the suspected assault took place at her establishment.

Eilat Red Sea Hotel owner Pnina Maman (Channel 12 screenshot)

Pnina Maman told Channel 12 news that she handed over all of the Red Sea Hotel’s security camera footage to police and that it does not show any groupings of 30 people.

“We are a hotel, not an educational institution. I’m not guilty of what happened. There were never 30 people in the hallways. We checked all the cameras. There was no gathering. This could have happened, unfortunately, in any hotel,” she said. “We have no way of knowing what happens inside the rooms.”

An official involved in the case told Walla news earlier on Thursday, “It’s not possible that there was massive drinking of alcohol, and men going up and coming down in groups — and that [at the same time,] no one in the hotel’s management or security paid any attention. They have a responsibility to hotel guests.”

Channel 12 reported the teenage girl went to the southern resort city earlier this month with a friend, where they met a group of the friend’s acquaintances. They all went out to drink together and at one point came back to a room in the hotel.

The teenager and her friend say that that was when the girl was raped by the men, who lined up one after the other.

The first suspect was arrested after messages between him and the teenager revealed there was video documentation of the alleged assault. He denied communicating with the girl, saying someone else was using his phone.

The suspect said that more than 30 men had sex with the girl, but that documentation from security cameras would prove that it was not done under duress — that the men stood in line at the entrance to the room while the girl, intoxicated, called for them to come to her.

Police said the teenager’s friend tried to help her, but was unable to.

Thousands of Israelis protested nationwide on Thursday evening in support of the girl, with hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square and others at over 30 other locations across Israel. The protests were held under the banner “We won’t be silent anymore.”

Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the 16-year-old victim of a gang rape in Eilat a few days ago, in Haifa on August 20, 2020. (Flash90)

Protest organizers referred to a case at the Ayia Napa holiday resort in Cyprus, where a group of Israelis were suspected last year of raping a British tourist, and to a separate case in which two Israeli soccer players were suspected of statutory rape earlier this year.

The British tourist in the Ayia Napa case was found guilty of lying about the alleged attack, but has stood by her account of the 2019 incident, saying Cypriot police pressured her into falsely retracting her claim.

Israeli teens who were cleared of rape allegations in Cyprus reunite with family members at Ben Gurion Airport on July 28, 2019. (Flash90)

All 12 of the Israelis were initially arrested, but were released after police said the woman retracted the rape allegations.

They all returned to Israel and were greeted with scenes of celebration that many deemed highly inappropriate under the circumstances.

Nine out of 10 rape cases in Israel are closed by prosecutors without charge, according to an annual survey released at the end of last year, which also found a significant increase in reports of sexual assault and harassment to the authorities.

The report by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel found that in 2018 police opened 6,220 investigations into alleged sex crimes and harassment, including 1,166 investigations of suspected rape, marking a 12 percent increase as compared to the previous year and a 40% rise from 2013.

Amid a rise in high-profile gang rape cases in schools, the report found that most victims (63%) of reported gang rapes in 2018 were of girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

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