An 83-year-old woman was raped and beaten for hours in the courtyard of her apartment building near the central bus station in south Tel Aviv by a young Eritrean migrant, police announced on Monday.
Police said they were able to find the assailant a few days after the rape, and on Monday morning he was brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, where his remand was extended by four days.
Yiftach sub-district head Supt. David Gez said the rape took place between 10 a.m. and around 12:30 p.m. 10 days ago in a courtyard that was hidden from the street.
The victim had left her apartment; the suspect reportedly dragged her into the courtyard, and beat and raped her repeatedly. He only fled when relatives of the victim arrived to visit her.
Gez said police have not determined if the man knew the woman beforehand.
Gez said the attacker was not armed and did not tie the woman up, as he had no need to do so to keep the elderly woman under his control.
The suspect was arrested last Tuesday, and was taken for his first remand extension the next day.
During Monday’s hearing, it was agreed that he would undergo an HIV test, to spare the victim from having to undergo tests or unnecessary medication and treatment.
Also during the hearing, the suspect’s public defender said the suspect contends that he was born in 1995 and is therefore a minor, though he is registered in Israel as being born in 1993.
Police identified the suspect using DNA taken at the scene.
Police had the suspect’s DNA on record because he had been arrested in the past for trying to steal a woman’s bag on the beach, after which he was processed at the Lev Tel Aviv police station.
The suspect was not cooperating with investigators and was only saying that he didn’t remember anything, police said.
When asked if police have reinforced their patrols in south Tel Aviv to prevent violent disturbances directed at the African migrant community, Gez said police are already going to be on higher than normal deployment because of New Year’s Eve. “I don’t think the public is stupid enough to take this incident and make it into something it isn’t,” he added.
On Monday afternoon, activists who work with the African community said they had received calls throughout the day from migrants who expressed concern about the possibility of anti-migrant violence.
The building where the rape took place is on one of the seediest streets in Tel Aviv, a few doors down from a building where an Eritrean woman was found stabbed to death on Monday in what police believe was a domestic dispute.
The street also a few blocks from the central bus station, is a warren of drug addicts and prostitutes, and has been so long before large numbers of African migrants moved there in recent years.
On Monday afternoon, there were large corrugated steel panels around the fence through which the rape victim was dragged into the backyard 10 days ago. A man who carries out maintenance for the building said the panels were put up after the attack. On both sides of the building, African migrant bars were playing loud music, and most of the people in the street were either foreigners or people who appeared to be involved in the drug or sex trade. The scene was probably similar on the Friday when the rape took place for nearly three hours without anyone calling the police.
Following the police statement on the attack on Monday, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai was quick to call on the Foreign and Justice ministries to allow him to begin deporting Africans from Sudan and Eritrea, who are in Israel illegally, back to their countries.
“The shocking rape is a symptom of a loss of sense of security among Israeli citizens in areas where there are high concentrations of infiltrators,” Yishai said. He also called for the Foreign and Justice ministries to finish construction of the Sinai border fence, start filling the detention centers with migrants, and stiffen enforcement of the Prevention of Infiltration Law as amended in June.
A few hours after the rape case was publicized, Strong Israel MK Michael Ben-Ari announced plans to hold a protest march from his party office on Hagana Street toward the central bus station.
By 6:30 p.m., around 150 people were marching down Hagana Street chanting “Sudanese to Sudan” and “Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu], go home”, before gathering for a rally outside the bus station.
Those in attendance repeated calls that they have made in the past for the migrants to be sent home and for greater security in their neighborhoods, but there was anger at the police for, in their words, “covering up” the rape attacks.
Haim Cohen, a 31-year-old member of the Shapira neighborhood council and a father of three, said: “We live this every day, there are many cases every day that don’t make the news because they aren’t a rape or a murder.”
He said the residents had no choice but to exploit the attack to gain attention.
“If it’s not a rape people don’t pay attention. We have to take advantage of this so that people listen to us,” Cohen said.