Law enforcement on Friday identified 18-year-old Adir Ratzon as the suspect charged with torching the home of a daycare manager filmed abusing small children.
Ratzon, a resident of the northern West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, is suspected of having set fire to a number of spots around the apartment building of Carmel Mauda. The blaze destroyed most of the woman’s apartment building in Rosh Ha’ayin as well as the Baby Love center on the roof where the alleged systematic violence against 11 children, aged between three months to three years old, took place between May 27 and June 16.
Police are in possession of security camera footage and cellphone GPS placing Ratzon at Mauda’s building both before and after the fire started, according to Hebrew media.
Several other apartment buildings were damaged in the blaze, but no one was injured.
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— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) July 12, 2019
Investigators were looking into whether the 18-year-old, who was involved in a separate arson incident last year in Karnei Shomron, had been hired to torch Mauda’s home.
Ratzon has denied any involvement in the fire, though on Wednesday the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court extended his remand.
Channel 12 news reported that Ratzon is related to the parents of a boy who had previously attended the daycare.
Mauda, 25, is being held at Neveh Tirza prison in Ramle, where she is awaiting charges in the case. She was arrested in June, but last Thursday, police released footage of the alleged abuse, leading to widespread anger against her and protests outside her home.
On Saturday night, a group of parents gathered outside the prison to protest shortly before the fire started.
Graphic security camera footage released by police days earlier showed Mauda tying up children, force-feeding them, smothering toddlers who refused to go to sleep with blankets, and physically abusing them.
שריפה פרצה בבניין ברחוב הסנהדרין בראש העין. על פי החשד מדובר בביתה של כרמל מעודה, הגננת שתועדה מתעללת בפעוטות. לא היו נפגעים באירוע @almazmangisto
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— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) July 6, 2019
On Sunday, thousands demonstrated across the country calling for increased oversight of childcare facilities.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Education Ministry would take full responsibility for all state-funded preschool daycare centers.
The decision refers only to state-run facilities which are funded for ages three and above, at which time children are eligible to enter public preschools. It will therefore not affect any private daycare centers, including all daycare for children under three, as protesters had also demanded.
Currently, just 23 percent of the facilities across the country are under the auspices of the Education Ministry and subject to its oversight regulations. The remainder are overseen either by the welfare or economy ministries, both of which, parents say, have lower standards.