JERUSALEM: It’s being described as the worst sexual abuse scandal in the Israeli Army’s history. As many as 35 Israeli soldiers are suspected of statutory rape of an 11-year-old girl who lived with her family on an air force base in southern Israel.
Defence lawyers say the girl, now in counselling, lied to the soldiers about her age, claiming she was older, and that the sex was consensual. Regardless, legal experts said the soldiers could still be prosecuted for statutory rape.
The case marks a new low for the military, once Israel’s most revered institution, tarnished in recent years by incidents of financial corruption and sexual misconduct. According to limited details released by the military on Monday, at least 17 Israeli air force soldiers have been investigated, and several others are likely to be called in.
The girl lived with her family on the base where her father, a career military man, served. The family has since left the base and the girl is under psychological care, the army said.
According to media reports, the girl, now 14, told military investigators that the sex was consensual and she had lied to the soldiers about her age. Some soldiers involved in the case told investigators the girl claimed to be 16, and they had no idea she had yet to reach her 12th birthday. One of the suspects told the Maariv daily that the girl initiated the sexual encounters. The army has been investigating the case since March and charges are expected to be filed soon against the soldiers. The army has issued a gag order on all other details relating to the case.