IDF probes huge sex scandalHanan Greenberg
May. 01, 2006
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Cleared for publication at Ynet's request: 35 soldiers at Air Force base suspected of raping, sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl; IDF officials: We're talking about grave events taking place inside a military base
Severe sex scandal suspected at Air Force base: Dozens of soldiers are suspected of raping and committing other sexual offences against a 14-year-old girl.
The alleged crimes were apparently committed for over a year and started when the girl was 13. Dozens of suspects were questioned over the shocking affair in recent weeks by Military Police and Israel Police investigators.
A publication ban on the affair was lifted Sunday as Ynet's request.
Meanwhile, army officials told Ynet the events in question are grave.
"It's even more severe because it happened inside a military base, and the way it looks now we'll be serving indictments against many involved in the affair," one IDF source said.
Overall, 35 soldiers serving at the base are suspected of having sex with the girl during the past year. The affair first came to light about a month ago and prompted the probe.
Many of those questioned said the girl did not attend school and claimed she was about to be drafted into the military, which led them to believe she was 17 or 18. As a result, some of the soldiers said they did not know their deeds were illegal.
At this time, Military Prosecutors decided not to arrest anyone while proceeding with interrogations under warning.
A senior official familiar with the scandal told Ynet certain problems emerged in collecting testimonials and characterizing the deeds, but added that even if rape is ruled out many of those involved will be charged with voluntary illegal intercourse, because the girl apparently did not voice objection. However, the punishment for such crimes can be up to five years in prison.
Ynet turned to the Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court about 10 days ago and asked that the publication ban on the affair be at least scaled back so that some details can be published. On Sunday, the court complied with the request and lifted the ban.
Family to leave base
A senior Air Force official characterized the affair as a "conspiracy of silence."
"The affair went on for a long time but nobody knew or heard anything. Nobody also thought of reporting it," he said.
According to the investigation, the affair involved mostly soldiers doing their mandatory army service and some civilians.
Another officer said that the base's commander, whose name cannot be published for security considerations, was stunned when he first heard about the incidents.
"It took him some time to comprehend the scope of the incidents, the number of those involved, the period of time it went on, and everyone's silence," the officer said.
'Soldiers thought teenager was at least 16'
Soldiers at the base spoke to Ynet on Sunday evening, and said that they knew about the sexual relations between their friends and the teenager, but did not report it because they were convinced that relations were consensual, and that the teenager was at least 16 years-old.
"Four months ago of my friends at the base told me what he was doing, and even offered for me to join him," said one of the soldiers. "The truth is I really didn't want to, but I also didn't think there was something wrong because she said she is being drafted soon. I thought she was 18."
Another soldier said "there was no secret – anyone who asked was told about it, and therefore I don't understand why the commanders claim they didn't know. They never asked us."
Tal Cramer, Director- General of the Union of Centers for Help for Victims of Sexual Assault, told Ynet that despite the claims of soldiers, "this private incident is terrible, chilling and shocking. We at the Center are raising the alarm 365 days a year. These incidents are much more commonplace than people tend to think, in all avenues of society, the army, and the ultra-Orthodox society."
She added: "There's no doubt that the incident is severe because of the age of the teenager and also because of the number of participants. An incident took place in a small place and it is not clear how no one knew about it. It's hard for me to believe that this went on for an entire year and no body saw, no body knew, and nobody heard."
Kramer also said that accusations against the teenage girl were especially severe. "This is the only crime left where the victim is still blamed. There is systematic denial around it. One of the defense lawyers of the suspects said that although she was 13, she looked 17."
A senior army source said that "if there are testimonies, we won't hesitate to submit indictments for rape or illegal consensual relations." He added however that the investigation must first be carried out and conclusions reached.
Dorit Siton contributed to this report