A woman in the southern town of Gedera on Friday accused a man of breaking into her home in the middle of the night and raping her in front of her children.
“My house was broken into. I was raped in front of my children. Be careful and lock your doors,” the woman wrote in her neighborhood WhatsApp group chat on Friday morning, hours after the alleged rape took place.
The incident sparked protests in Gedera, with the town’s mayor accusing police of “incompetence” and of failing to protect his constituents amid a series of unsolved break-ins.
The Israel Police, which has opened an investigation into the incident, issued a response hitting back at the mayor’s “irresponsible” accusations and accusing him of seeking to “gain headlines and political capital on the back of a victim.”
A neighbor of the alleged victim told the Ynet news site that she started hearing a noise at around 2:30 a.m. and saw a man with a hooded sweatshirt running from the building at 3:18 a.m. She said she didn’t comprehend what had happened until she saw the WhatsApp message.
Another neighbor told Ynet that security camera footage from the building showed a man with a hooded sweatshirt and a black face mask tapping on the keypad outside the door trying to get in. When he didn’t succeed he climbed from a pergola to a second-floor window that had been left open.
The neighbor, who spoke to the victim, said the victim had woken up after hearing a noise and tried to confront the alleged attacker, but the suspect overpowered her and raped her by knifepoint.
“Her three children also woke up, and she begged him not to hurt them, even offering him NIS 2,000 ($585),” the neighbor said.
Channel 12 said the victim had been tied up during the attack.
A third neighbor, who also spoke with the victim, said the suspect drank a beer that he found in the fridge after he finished before fleeing. The woman, in her 30s, subsequently ran to the building across the street, shouting “I’ve been raped! I’ve been raped!” and one of the neighbors then called the police. It wasn’t immediately clear why the woman didn’t call police herself.
The neighbor said the victim told her that the suspect spoke with an Arabic accent.
Channel 13 published security footage said to show the suspect approach the building, then leave the area an hour later.
האונס בגדרה: החשוד תועד משוטט בשכונה, פורץ לדירה – ויוצא ממנה שעה אחרי
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) February 3, 2023
Gedera Mayor Yoel Gamliel held an emergency council meeting Friday morning where municipal officials agreed to add additional staff members to operate the town’s emergency hotline.
“We woke up this morning to news of a shocking incident that has shaken the entire Gedera community and the entire State of Israel. We are witnessing the price of police incompetence, which time and again has abandoned the citizens of Israel,” Gamliel said in a statement. “We are at the forefront of the war on crime, yet we have received no response from the body entrusted with the enforcement of law and order.”
“A situation in which innocent citizens are left to fight on their own against burglars, car thieves, illegal aliens and violent criminals is unacceptable,” the mayor said.
Gamliel said he invited National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who oversees police, to visit the town. Ben Gvir vowed to crack down on crime in the south as part of his campaign platform during last year’s election.
Ben Gvir arrived later in the day but was heckled by some of the 100 people who staged a protest in front of the mayor’s house, demanding that personal safety be restored in Gedera.
השר בן גביר בגדרה: "אני רק חודש בתפקיד, נקים משמר לאומי"
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) February 3, 2023
“Where is the security you promised?” one of the demonstrators shouted at Ben Gvir.
Others held signs that said, “We demand security,” and “We want to sleep in quiet.”
“You’re right. This happened on my watch, and I’ll do everything I can to restore a sense of security here,” Ben Gvir said. “I’ve only been in the job for a month.
He also criticized the mayor’s decision to blame the police for what had happened.
The local police force is understaffed, with only 10 officers assigned to the town’s over 30,000 residents, Channel 12 reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “shocked” by the “appalling” incident and that the perpetrator would be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law.