Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev on Tuesday agreed on the establishment of a joint investigation into the conscription of women into the Prisons Service as guards. The decision comes after a slew of allegations regarding the Gilboa Prison pimping affair.
The investigation will examine the roles designated for women within the IPS and, if necessary, redefine the characterization and requirements of the positions in accordance with the law.
Until the investigation is concluded, Gantz and Bar Lev have agreed on a number of immediate steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of the prison guards. These steps include a temporary ban on female guards working alone inside the security prisoners’ wings, as well as increased inspections by the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to ensure the personal safety of the guards.
Alongside these changes, the allocation of IDF conscripts to the IPS will continue as normal.
“The personal safety of all our servicemen and women, in the IDF or in any other unit, must be our top priority,” Gantz said about the decision to open a joint investigation. “The events that allegedly took place within the prison walls are extremely serious, and we must not ignore them. The parents who send their children to mandatory service must know that we do everything to protect them, and we will. I thank the public security minister for his and his people’s full commitment.”
Bar Lev said the joint investigation is “our commitment to them [the victims]. This is our commitment to their parents, and this is our commitment to Israeli society.”
The fight against sexual harassment is one of his top priorities as public security minister, he said. He thanked Gantz for his cooperation in the investigation.
Also on Tuesday, Keren Barak, the lawyer representing the former prison guards, filed a letter to the State Attorney’s Office requesting the prevention of “spreading of rumors and briefings by members of the system against the character of the guard Hila.”
"The events that allegedly took place within the prison walls are extremely serious, and we must not ignore them."Defense Minister Benny Gantz
Hila (not her real name) first came forward in late July with testimony regarding a previously gag-ordered sexual-assault incident in which she was raped multiple times by Fatah terrorist and Gilboa prisoner Muhammad Atallah.
However, since publishing her testimony, Hila has been contending with rumors and misinformation being spread about her both in the press and by the public, Barak said.
According to Hila’s testimony, Atallah gained access to her with the knowledge of senior prison officials.
Five other guards had previously come forward with similar allegations, although upon her publication of her testimony, Barak called it “the most shocking case since the establishment of the State of Israel of sexual assault against an IDF soldier on regular duty by a terrorist who is an enemy of the State of Israel with blood on his hands.”
Attached to Barak’s letter to the State Attorney’s Office were the results of a polygraph test taken by Hila, during which she recounted her experiences.
On Tuesday, a court approved the publication of Atallah’s name as the prisoner suspected of raping Hila.