Suspect indicted for aggravated rape of woman in front of her kids in Gedera
Barakhat Abu Essa, 22, from Bedouin town in south, broke into victim’s home, threatened to kill her as toddler cried, then forced her into another room to rape her, prosecutors say
A 22-year-old suspect arrested earlier this month for allegedly raping a woman in front of her children after breaking into her home in Gedera was indicted on Thursday on charges of aggravated rape, abuse of a minor, and breaking into a building.
The incident shocked the town of Gedera and the rest of the nation, triggering protests in the southern town by residents who said they felt unsafe.
According to the indictment, the suspect, identified as Barakhat Abu Essa from Tel Sheva, a Bedouin town bordering the southern city of Beersheba, broke into the victim’s home in the middle of the night on February 2 equipped with rolls of thick tape, which he used to tie her wrists and ankles and cover her mouth and her eyes.
The victim had been asleep and awoke as the suspect forced his way into her apartment from the balcony, at which point she began screaming for help. “Shut up or I’ll kill you!” the suspect threatened, according to a statement from prosecutors on Thursday. The suspect then tied up the victim as she cried and struggled while her two-year-old boy stood nearby and also cried.
According to the indictment, Abu Essa forced the victim into the apartment’s reinforced room (mamad) where he raped her. After the rape, he removed the tape from her mouth and told her that she had “grown children who could help free her” from the bonds, the statement read. The suspect then went to the kitchen, took a bottle of beer and drank it before the victim’s other son, whose age was not specified, woke up and saw the suspect — who then left the apartment.
The victim, a woman in her 30s, had posted a message in her neighborhood’s WhatsApp group the following morning that said: “My house was broken into. I was raped in front of my children. Be careful and lock your doors.”
Abu Essa was arrested on February 4 in the West Bank alongside six other people whose connection to the case was not specified by police.
The prosecution asked the court on Thursday to detain the suspect until the legal proceedings against him are completed.
Abu Essa had previously denied his involvement in the rape, telling the court in his appearance after the arrest: “It’s not me.” But the judge stated that there is “a high likelihood that the suspect committed the crimes attributed to him.” The judge also told the court that the “testimony from the complainant paints a very difficult picture of her traumatic experience.”
Police believe the suspect was not planning a burglary and broke into the victim’s home with the intention of raping her.
Security footage released by the police following the arrest showed the suspect approaching the Gedera building in the night on February 2, then leaving the area an hour later. Police said that they identified the suspect based on eyewitness testimony and the security camera footage.
Days after the arrest, police said they questioned four men on suspicion that they were planning to attack Arab construction workers in Gedera as revenge for the rape. The four residents of the town were suspected of planning — in a WhatsApp group — to break into construction sites and target Palestinian laborers, police said in a statement on February 8.
Police said they had warned the group a day before they were brought into the station not to take the law into their own hands. The suspects were released under restrictive conditions and ordered to stay away from Gedera for an unspecified period.