Seven males between the ages of 17 and 45 were arrested in Tel Aviv on suspicion of engaging in sexual acts and indecent assault with a large number of females aged 14 to 18, the police announced on Wednesday.
Police said they began an undercover investigation after one of the minors came forward and told them about a number of girls who were having sex with a group of adults in exchange for money and other unspecified benefits.
Detectives from the Youth and Drug Trafficking unit of the Tel Aviv Central Unit and the Shahar 101 division arrested a number suspects at their homes on Wednesday morning.
The adults who were arrested are suspected of causing the victims to be engaged in acts of prostitution, indecent acts in public and involvement with minors in acts of prostitution, police said.
Among those arrested was a 17-year-old boy believed to have acted as a pimp, making the connection between the victims and one of the other suspects.
The suspects are expected to appear before the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Thursday for their bail hearings.
“The serious case uncovered today joins the series of cases publicized in recent weeks of sexual abuse and exploitation of female minors. This incident should serve as a decisive moment for the Israeli government – the moment we recognize that this is a serious social problem and we must eradicate it,” Orit Sulitzeanu, director-general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said in a statement released on Wednesday.
She called on the government to establish a national program to combat sexual violence among youth.
Seven teenage boys were arrested for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in Tel Aviv in a separate incident last week.
Police arrested five teenage boys suspected of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl in a similar case in December.
“Stop burying your head in the sand. We call on authorities to recognize that, in Israel in 2014, there is an untreated widespread phenomenon that we must invest the necessary resources to eradicate,” Sulitzeanu said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.