Pimping affair: Gantz calls to pull women from guarding Palestinian security prisoners

Gantz demanded women stop serving as guards for Palestinian security prisoners pending investigation of Pimping Affair allegations. 

 GILBOA PRISON, in northern Israel near the West Bank.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
GILBOA PRISON, in northern Israel near the West Bank.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has called for an immediate ban on female soldiers guarding Palestinian security prisoners after another woman who served as a guard at Gilboa Prison came forward to say she was raped during her military service there.

In a letter to Interior Minister Omer Bar Lev, Gantz demanded that women stop serving in that capacity immediately, pending an in-depth investigation of the allegations.

According to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office, Gantz “intends to reexamine the continued placement of compulsory soldiers in the Israel Prison Services, given that their job is to deal directly with security prisoners.”

"I felt like a piece of meat."

Israeli guard, HIla

In his letter, Gantz said dealing with Palestinian security prisoners “requires appropriate and comprehensive training as well as deep familiarity with the framework of service in prisons.... Therefore it is necessary to consider whether this role should be performed by female employees not assigned by the IDF.”

He also said the conditions in which female guards serve must be examined, including to maintain their safety.

  Israel Prison Services (IPS) head Kati Perry is seen testifying to the committee investigating the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa Prison, on January 12, 2022. (credit: Bruno Sharvit/GPO) Israel Prison Services (IPS) head Kati Perry is seen testifying to the committee investigating the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa Prison, on January 12, 2022. (credit: Bruno Sharvit/GPO)

“Therefore, it’s necessary to consider whether this is a job appropriate for female soldiers in compulsory service to do,” Gantz continued. “It’s also necessary to consider under what circumstances such service can be allowed and what conditions are needed to protect the safety of the female soldiers and their physical wellbeing.

“Accordingly, I instructed officials in the Defense Ministry and the IDF to examine, together with officials of the Internal Security Ministry, the order allowing the placing of female compulsory soldiers into the Israel Prison Services,” he said.

"Unthinkable" rape of soldier by terrorist

On Thursday, a woman who identified herself by the alias “Hila” told Yediot Aharonot that she had been repeatedly raped by Mahmoud Atallah, a Palestinian convicted of murdering Israelis who she said enjoyed special privileges from prison authorities.

“I felt like a piece of meat, as if I was undressed by the inmates,” she was quoted as saying. “The staff would joke about Atallah being horny and a sexual deviant. It was common knowledge and the staff would laugh about it.”

On Tuesday, President Isaac Herzog said the testimonies of the female prison wards “fills me with shock and pain, and I feel sick. I think that’s the feeling in the general public.”

Stressing that the cases must be investigated in depth, he said it is the country’s obligation to hold those responsible accountable “with the fullest severity.”

“Every woman in Israel must be safe; every woman acting on behalf of the state must be safe,” Herzog said. “How have we reached this horrific situation, in which the women who keep us safe – their bodies are forfeit? We must remember that the wounds and scars these female soldiers are suffering from will never disappear. They will remain etched on the bodies, minds and souls of the victims.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced on Tuesday at his first Israel Prison Service tour that the secure hotline for female prison guards will be launched two weeks ahead of its planned opening in light of developing atrocities in the affair.

Hila is the latest woman to accuse Atallah of sexual violence. Last year, Gilboa Prison commander Freddy Ben Sheetrit said that female IDF soldiers serving at the prison were sexually harassed regularly by Palestinian security prisoners at the high-security prison.

Ben Sheetrit said officers at the prison had been “pimping” female soldiers serving as wardens there.

Following her allegations, Bar Lev said he would pursue an investigation despite four years having passed.

Urging others to come forward, the Interior minister said that those involved in a cover-up would be dismissed, calling it a “dereliction of duty that cannot repeat itself.”

On Sunday, Lapid said it was “unthinkable” that an IDF soldier was raped during her military service and that he had spoken with Bar Lev and Israel Prison Services warden Katy Perry.

The prime minister said the two presented steps that will be taken to “make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Sarah Ben-Nun contributed to this report.