Eleven alleged rapists have now been arrested after a 16-year-old girl claimed she was gang-raped at a hotel in southern Israel.
Two 27-year-old men, believed to be the main suspects, were arrested last week, while nine minors, all thought to be aged 17, were arrested at the weekend.
The girl claims she was attacked in a room at the Red Sea Hotel on August 12 after going there to drink with friends, with witnesses saying up to 30 men were involved.
Police say the girl’s account is credible and tallies up with evidence, including testimony from her friend and CCTV footage which allegedly shows men queuing down a corridor leading to the room.
Officers say it is unlikely that the number of assailants is as high as 30, but believe it is in double digits and are not discounting any possibilities, Haaretz reported.
In addition to the alleged rapists, the hotel manager has been arrested as police charged her with obstructing their investigation and failing to prevent a crime.
A 19-year-old woman was also questioned and released after encouraging people to share video of the attack via WhatsApp.
In a group that was being watched by police, one member asked whether video of the attack actually existed.
‘Don’t be stingy, share,’ the woman responded.
Police say she admitted sending the message, but denied intending to publish the video online and so was released.
The 16-year-old girl is said to be in an unstable mental condition, but is cooperating with police and has said she is willing to face her alleged attackers in court.
She has been placed under police protection after her personal information began spreading online, amid fears she could be intimidated by the men she is accusing.
Police say she was not a guest at the hotel, but had gone there to drink with friends before being taken to a room in a ‘dazed’ state and assaulted.
A fellow guest at the hotel, who arrived around midnight on the day of the alleged attack, described how people were drinking and smoking throughout the hotel in breach of rules, and that management were uninterested in stopping them.
He added that a large number of young people were gathered in the hallway outside his room which he reported to the manager, but nothing was done about it.
‘I have no idea if they were the ones the police are looking for, but a large group of people had gathered there and were making a lot of noise,’ he said.
He added that people were smoking and drinking in the pool, including throwing their cigarette butts in the water, despite signs banning smoking in the area.
‘There were crazy levels of music and alcohol,’ he added. ‘The lifeguard himself brought out a food container, filled it with ice so the young folks had somewhere to put their alcohol bottles. They simply opened a bar at the pool.
‘I approached the hotel manager to tell her that it was over the top… Her response was: “If you have a problem, you can complain to the municipal inspectors. I don’t check what they’re doing.”‘
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the alleged attack, calling it a ‘crime against humanity’.
Activists, who took to the streets earlier this year to protest violence towards women in Israel, returned last week to hold demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The protesters united under the banner ‘we won’t be silent anymore’, with around 1,000 in the capital – where protesters briefly blocked traffic – 150 in Jeruselam, and more in Givatayim, Haifa and elsewhere.
Ilana Weizman of women’s rights group HaStickeriot said one in five Israeli women was raped during her lifetime with 260 cases reported every day.
‘We must educate our boys on the issue of consent … from a very young age,’ she said.
Many protesters referred to a case last year, when a 19-year-old British woman claimed she had been gang-raped by 12 Israeli males, aged 15 to 18, at a hotel in Cyprus.
The woman’s allegation led to 12 Israeli men being detained and subsequently released.
She later withdrew her allegation, but claims she was coerced by Cypriot police into dropping the case.
The woman was given a suspended sentence in January this year after being found guilty of public mischief.