eliezer Shkedy, air forc.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy on Sunday publicly addressed for the first time allegations that "dozens" of soldiers, officers and civilians had illegal sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl on an IAF base in the south of the country.
Shkedy told reporters at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv that the allegations, which surfaced three weeks ago, were "appalling and extremely disturbing."
He acknowledged that it was his own responsibility to learn how the alleged crimes could occur and continue unabated for over a year and a half. He promised that those found guilty of indiscretions would be dealt with decisively.
"Whoever is found to have to have acted immorally will be punished in a determined, absolute and uncompromising manner, without regard for his rank or position," he said.
The IAF chief expressed his personal dismay, "as a father, as a person responsible for the Air Force, as a citizen, as a human being," that soldiers within his ranks would exploit a girl, especially one under the legal age.
He assured reporters at the briefing that he had no intention of "sweeping the suspicious behavior under the rug."
"We are in the midst of attempting to understand what exactly happened there, to investigate it to the core and understand," he said. "There are many questions that are being asked, like how does a girl get to be in a situation like this? How could so many soldiers participate and know about something like this without raising a red flag?"
Shkedy also questioned the responsibility of the girl's parents.
"How does the family not recognize and address a problem that went on for so long with so many people," he said.
Shkedy promised an open and thorough investigation into what has been called the worst sex scandal in IDF history. Close to 30 soldiers, a noncommissioned officer and civilians are suspected of having illegal sexual relations with the daughter of a career air force man living on the base.
According to a high-ranking IAF officer, the soldiers confessed to having sex with her, but claimed that she told them she was 16, the legal age for consensual sex.
Military sources and Justice Ministry officials estimated that the ongoing investigation would lead to criminal charges and demotion.
The girl, the officer said, was not paid for the sex and admitted to sleeping with the soldiers with her full consent. She has been referred to welfare authorities and is receiving psychological treatment.