Four Palestinians arrested over their suspected involvement in the alleged rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl in a central West Bank settlement earlier this year were released Wednesday, a police spokeswoman said.
Two of the men were arrested Tuesday, over a month after a military prosecutor dropped all charges against another Palestinian suspect in the case. The only condition for their release is that they appear at a nearby police station if summoned again, police said.
Coinciding with the release of the two men, police on Wednesday said two additional Palestinians were detained for questioning on suspicion of having assisted in the alleged crime. Hours later, they were also freed.
The arrests were the first to be made since the case against Mahmoud Qadusa fell apart under intense public scrutiny in late June, in an affair that drew accusations of shoddy police work.
A police official said that in the coming weeks, they will be seeking to question all Palestinians that were in the ultra-Orthodox settlement during the period they believe the girl had been raped. They will also be questioning other members of the community and have not ruled out the possibility that a fellow Jewish resident could have been the perpetrator.
“The Israel Police continues to investigate the rape case all the time and with all the tools and means at its disposal in order to arrive at the truth,” a statement from police said Tuesday.
Qadusa, who worked in custodial services at the girl’s school, was held in jail for nearly two months as he was investigated for the alleged rape. His release came after questions were raised over the police’s handling of the probe.
After returning to his home in the central West Bank village of Dir Kadis following his release, Qadusa asserted that he had never met the alleged victim and that “someone was behind the whole ordeal who told her to identify me [as the rapist].”
“For seven years I’ve worked in that city,” Qadusa, 46, said of the settlement where the alleged rape took place. “I have Jewish friends there. They know me. Ask them what they think of me.”
Qadusa told Kan at the time that police should find the “real” culprit and when they do, “don’t put him in jail, kill him.”
The dropped charges had accused Qadusa of dragging the girl from her school to a vacant home in the settlement, where he raped her as at least two of his friends pinned her down. Shortly after the indictment was leaked, police came under fire for relying almost entirely on the testimony of the 7-year-old, forgoing forensic evidence, in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.