soldier in silhouette 88.
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"I can't take in how bad this is," the commander of the IAF Nevatim Base said quietly on Monday, in an interview on what was described as the worst sex scandal in military history. Close to 30 IDF troops from his base are suspected of raping and having illegal sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of a career military air force serviceman.
The commander, a colonel, told Army Radio that the scandal was first uncovered a month and a half ago during a military police investigation into unrelated matters.
The sexual relations, the air force's legal counsel said Sunday, began a year and a half ago when the girl was 13. Under interrogation the soldiers confessed to having sex with the minor but claimed that she told them she was 16 - a legal age for sex - and was preparing to enlist in the IDF. The army said that the girl began the relationship with the soldiers while she lived in a nearby city, before moving to the base itself a year ago. The girl, who - according to the base commander - flatly denies the events, has been referred to welfare authorities and is receiving psychological treatment. Her family has been urged to move off the base.
"This affair is embarrassing for the IAF and the entire military," the counsel said. "There was a vow of silence among those involved and the relations went on for a year without anyone, even the girl's parents, knowing anything about them."
The base commander expressed how deeply he was troubled by the apparent fact that no one took the trouble to put a stop to the abuse. "We can't be in every place every minute," he said. "We're working to improve our 'sensors,' especially at night."
"But other soldiers probably knew about it, and no one said anything," he continued. "What else happens here that I don't know about? That's what I'm asking myself," he confessed. "How much do I know about my soldiers? About my kids?"
"My lesson is that as a father, and an officer, - always ask questions. Assume that not everything happens the way you intended," the base commander concluded.
The Military Police investigation, parts of which were still under a gag order, has so far led investigators to 20 soldiers, including one non-commissioned officer. The soldiers, a senior IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post, were facing possible charges of statutory rape and consensual sex with a minor.
All of the soldiers involved in the affair have been interrogated, although no sanctions have yet to be taken against them. "We want to wait until we have all of the information and then we will decide if there is sufficient evidence to press charges," the air force's legal representative said Sunday, adding that when the IAF brass began to hear the details of the affair, "people were in complete shock."
Steps, he continued, were immediately taken to stop the girl's relationship with the soldiers and she was ordered by her parents to stop meeting them. The parents, the officer added, were unaware of their daughter's actions and were also receiving psychological assistance.
"If we find evidence we will not hesitate to press charges against the soldiers," the officer said. "We view this very seriously and plan to take a hard hand to those involved."
Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy said he viewed the incident "gravely," and instructed military police to investigate the circumstances between the minor and the soldiers. The girl, the high-ranking IAF officer said, was not paid for the sex and admitted to sleeping with the soldiers with her full consent.
"There was no payment," he said. "As much as she was able to at her age, she gave her consent and this was something she said she was interested in just like the soldiers were."