Gilboa Prison commander Freddy Ben Shitrit on Wednesday appeared to confirm reports from 2018 that female soldiers who were doing their military service in the prison as guards were “pimped” to Palestinian terrorists.
Several former female guards at the prison said they had been used as bargaining chips with inmates and deliberately placed in harm’s way by their superiors in order to get concessions from the prisoners.
Ben Shitrit said the prison “pimped soldiers” and “they handed over female soldiers to terrorists for sexual purposes,” apparently referring to an alleged practice of placing female soldiers in close contact with prisoners as sex objects to be ogled or even assaulted.
“The pimping incident was a massive incident,” he said.
The alleged incident or incidents happened before Ben Shitrit served as commander in the prison.
The allegations were first reported in 2018 by Channel 20 and firmly denied by the prison services. An initial investigation was closed due to a lack of evidence, Hebrew media reported Wednesday evening.
Ben Shitrit revived the allegations while testifying Wednesday to a government panel regarding the failures that led to a jailbreak by six Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa prison earlier this year. The fallout from the prison break revealed widespread failures in the prison, many related to staffing and resource shortages.
One of the soldiers who said she was sexually assaulted in the incident called Wednesday to reopen the investigation.
The soldier, who was not identified by name, told Walla that she and other guards had been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian terrorist named Muhammad Atallah. The guards claimed the prison’s management knew about the abuse and covered it up until media reports about the affair brought it to light in June 2018.
Those reports alleged that an intelligence officer in the prison placed female guards in the facility’s security wing at the request of the terrorist.
Channel 12 said three soldiers were involved in the case.
The female soldier who came forward said she had been ordered to accompany Atallah around the facility, which gave him opportunities to assault her, including by groping her buttocks, while her bosses turned a blind eye.
In exchange, Atallah, a powerful figure among other prisoners, kept the facility quiet for the prison staff, according to Channel 13.
“They sent me on assignments I wasn’t supposed to do to be a sexual object in order to get intelligence,” one of the alleged victims told Channel 12. “One of the security prisoners acted however he wanted toward me. Insults, sexual offenses, verbal assaults. Every time I came for a shift I was depressed.”
She said she was used “as an object, as a pretty girl, as a tempting young woman. To just be a sexual object to get information out of them.”
“My commanders didn’t care about what I was feeling or experiencing,” she said.
The officer acknowledged putting guards with the prisoner after he requested their presence by name, Walla reported.
The officer was suspended, but has since returned to the prison service.
The former soldier who called for an investigation said, “I expect the prosecution and police to reopen the investigation case. They need to file an indictment against the intelligence officer who gave us to terrorists and everyone who knew about it and kept quiet, and there were many people like that in the prison. We complained that the prisoner was sexually assaulting us and were told not to comment.”
The soldier’s lawyer, Galit Smilovitch, said Ben Shitrit’s comments on Wednesday backed up her client’s accusations.
“This is basically an admission that everything was planned,” she said. “The prosecution must take care of the problem at its root and order the opening of the case and filing of indictments against everyone involved.”
The prison service said Wednesday that the revived allegations were an attempt to turn attention away from Ben Shitrit’s testimony about the prison’s mismanagement.
The case was “investigated under a previous commissioner and closed by the State Attorney’s office,” the prison service said in a statement.
“If Ben Shitrit has new information in his hands that justifies reopening the investigation, he must immediately pass it on to enforcement authorities.”
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli called the comments by Ben Shitrit “shocking” and said Public Security Minister Omer Barlev had set up a committee to investigate the case.
“I’m sure that all the shortcomings and atrocities that occurred in the prison in recent years will be uncovered, and rectified,” she said.