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Two suspects under arrest

Thousands protest nationwide over alleged gang rape of teen by 30 men in Eilat

Victim said to tell police that suspect offered her videos of incident; hotel owner says she’s received rape threats, claims security footage does not show men grouped in hallways

Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the alleged 16-year-old victim of a gang rape in Eilat, in Jerusalem on August 20, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the alleged 16-year-old victim of a gang rape in Eilat, in Jerusalem on August 20, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A 16-year-old who was allegedly raped by 30 men in an Eilat hotel reportedly told police on Thursday that one of the men offered to send her videos of the incident, as thousands of Israelis protested in support of the girl across the country.

The girl told police investigators, “The following day, one of the young men approached me and told me that he has videos. He asked if I wanted him to send them to me, but I wasn’t capable of handling it,” according to Channel 13.

The girl is currently with her family and said she is encouraged by the support she is receiving from the public.

“I feel that there are a lot of people behind me and this really strengthens me,” she said, but acknowledged that she was unable to ignore criticism directed at her online.

“No one knows what I went through, so how can you pass judgement and ask me questions?” she said, according to Channel 13.

The videos all appear to have been deleted from the suspects’ phones, the report said.

One of the girl’s friends told police that she had an altercation with one of the suspects, the Ynet news site reported.

The case has sent shockwaves throughout Israel, after testimony indicated the men lined up outside the intoxicated underage girl’s hotel room, patiently waiting their turn to rape her, as eyewitnesses failed to intervene.

But the owner of the hotel, Pnina Maman, said there was no evidence the suspected assault took place at her establishment.

Eilat Red Sea Hotel owner Pnina Maman (Channel 12 screenshot)

Maman told Channel 12 news that she handed over all of the Red Sea Hotel’s security camera footage to police and that it does not show any groupings of 30 people.

Stressing that the hotel is cooperating with police, Maman said she has children of her own and that her heart goes out to the girl.

She also complained of “shaming” of the hotel in the wake of reports on the alleged rape, and said she had herself received rape threats.

“We are a hotel, not an educational institution. I’m not guilty of what happened. There were never 30 people in the hallways. We checked all the cameras. There was no gathering. This could have happened, unfortunately, in any hotel,” she said. “We have no way of knowing what happens inside the rooms.”

An official involved in the case told Walla news earlier on Thursday, “It’s not possible that there was massive drinking of alcohol, and men going up and coming down in groups — and that [at the same time,] no one in the hotel’s management or security paid any attention. They have a responsibility to hotel guests.”

Thousands of Israelis protested nationwide — with hundreds in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square and others in over 30 other areas across Israel — in support of the girl.

Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the 16 year old victim of a gang rape in Eilat a few days ago, in Haifa on August 20, 2020. (Flash90)

The protests were held under the banner “We won’t be silent anymore.”

Around 1,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv, and around 150 people rallied in Jerusalem, Ynet reported.

More protests were reported in Givatayim, Haifa and elsewhere.

In Tel Aviv, protesters at Habima Square briefly blocked traffic at a nearby road, Channel 12 news reported.

Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the 16 year old victim of a suspected gang rape in Eilat, in Tel Aviv. August 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/flash90)

Protest organizers referred to a case at the Ayia Napa holiday resort in Cyprus, where a group of Israelis were suspected last year of raping a British tourist, and to a separate case in which two Israeli soccer players were suspected of statutory rape earlier this year.

The British tourist in the Ayia Napa was found guilty of lying about the alleged attack, but has stood by her account of the 2019 incident, saying Cypriot police gave her no choice other than to retract her claim.

All 12 of the Israelis were initially arrested, but were released after police said the woman retracted the rape allegations. They all returned to Israel and were greeted with scenes of celebration that many commentators deemed highly inappropriate under the circumstances.

“This case does not stand alone and is a direct continuation of the way in which the ‘youths’ from Ayia Napa were received and a direct continuation of the public discourse surrounding the soccer players affair,” the protest organizers said Thursday.

A British teenager convicted of falsely accusing a group of Israelis of gang rape covers her face as she arrives with her mother to the Famagusta District Court, in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus on January 7, 2020. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)

Earlier, police formed a special investigative detail to probe the alleged gang rape.

A police statement said Deputy Commissioner Yoram Sofer, commander of the southern district, held a situational assessment with the detail.

A pair of suspects in their late 20s from the northern city of Hadera have so far been arrested.

According to Channel 12 news, one of the suspects denied involvement.

The special police team took footage from security cameras in the hotel and are trying to identify suspects in the footage.

Eilat’s Red Sea Hotel (Channel 12 screenshot)

An official involved in the investigation told Channel 12, “At the moment we have two suspects in our hands, but it’s still the beginning of a complex investigation. We have an indication that there were several people in the same room. We do not know at this time what their exact number is. We also do not know at this stage what everyone present did there.”

The 16-year-old made the police complaint on Friday. A first suspect was detained on Wednesday, and his remand was extended for five days at the Ashkelon Magistrate Court. He was described by Hebrew media reports as a 27-year-old resident of northern Israel.

A second suspect, also 27, from Hadera, was arrested on Thursday morning. He was scheduled to be brought to court later on Thursday for a hearing.

Police said additional arrests were expected.

Channel 12 reported the teenage girl went to the southern resort city earlier this month with a friend, where they met a group of the friend’s acquaintances. They all went out to drink together and at one point came back to a room in the hotel.

The teenager and her friend say that that was when the girl was raped by the men, one after the other.

The first suspect was arrested after messages between him and the teenager revealed there was video documentation of the alleged assault. He denied communicating with the girl, saying someone else was using his phone.

The suspect said that more than 30 men had sex with the girl, but that documentation from security cameras would prove that it was not done under duress — that the men stood in line at the entrance to the room while the girl, intoxicated, called for them to come to her.

Police said the teenager’s friend tried to help her, but was unable to.

The girl’s friend reportedly told investigators that one of the suspects “said he was a medic and wanted to help” when it was clear that the girl was under the influence of alcohol. The suspect “took advantage of her and slept with her when she was out of control,” the friend said, according to Channel 13 news.

Nine out of 10 rape cases in Israel are closed by prosecutors without charge, according to an annual survey released at the end of last year, which also found a significant increase in reports of sexual assault and harassment to the authorities.

The report by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel found that in 2018 police opened 6,220 investigations into alleged sex crimes and harassment, including 1,166 investigations of suspected rape, marking a 12 percent increase as compared to the previous year and a 40% rise from 2013.

Amid a rise in high-profile gang rape cases in schools, the report found that most victims (63%) of reported gang rapes in 2018 were of girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

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