Police to indict two daycare teachers on almost 600 charges of abusing babies

Investigative team says it found hundreds of cases of abuse in hours of surveillance footage from recent months in Kiryat Gat facility

Illustrative photo of a daycare center in Israel April 20, 2018. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a daycare center in Israel April 20, 2018. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

After a weeks-long investigation, the Israel Police announced on Monday that it would recommend charges against two daycare teachers in the southern city of Kiryat Gat on close to 600 counts of abusing and attacking infants.

The teachers, aged 23 and 34, were arrested on Sunday after police watched hours of surveillance footage from the past few months, gathering evidence of systemic abuse of infants aged 18 months to two years.

“The covert police investigation began at the beginning of April following a complaint filed at the Kiryat Gat station that gave rise to suspicion of abuse of a girl of about two,” the police said on Monday.

“A special investigative team established in the police collected and watched hundreds of hours of footage from security cameras in the daycare that documented the goings-on for months.”

The police added that they recognized 589 counts of abuse inflicted on some 14 infants and that the parents had been called in to the police station to file complaints.

A hearing was set to be held on Monday to extend the women’s custody and an indictment was set to be filed in the coming days that would include charges of attacking helpless minors under their care as well as other offenses.

Parents of toddlers and other protesters block a road as they protest against the manager and assistants of a daycare in Ramle, suspected of abusing toddlers, in Tel Aviv on August 12, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first case we’ve come across in recent months and we are experienced,” said the investigative team’s leader Chief Inspector Yossi Mizrahi.

“The suspects’ unusual and violent behavior toward the infants was clear and repeated time after time across hundreds of incidents that were difficult to watch.”

The police did not detail what type of abuse the teachers inflicted on the infants but one of the mothers who watched some of the footage told Kan that one of the children was “lynched.”

“The teacher encouraged all the children to hit one boy, and they hit and kicked him and pulled his hair. The teacher stood on the side and watched them do it,” she said.

Another parent told Kan that their daughter had come home with bruises a few times but they did not believe it was because of the teachers.

“The abuse was discovered when one of the children came home with bruises on her back and her mother didn’t believe the teacher and sent her to daycare with a recording device,” the parent said.

Parents protest against child abuse in kindergartens and daycares in Tel Aviv on July 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel has seen several high-profile cases in which employees at private daycares have been caught on film abusing children, sparking widespread anger and leading to calls for greater oversight.

In the last month, Kiryat Gat saw four daycare teachers from the Wizo daycare in the city being arrested on suspicion of 166 charges of abuse of 23 children aged 3 and younger.

Most notoriously, Carmel Mauda, the head of the Baby Love daycare in Rosh Ha’ayin, was sentenced in 2021 to 9.5 years in prison. Mauda was arrested after graphic footage showed her and others abusing children as young as three months old, leading to large protests.

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