Official data revealed that as many as 893 cases of sexual harassment were reported by Israeli soldiers last year.
Israeli Public Radio reported yesterday that the number of complaints filed by both male and female soldiers who were harassed by their colleagues or senior officers during military service has increased over the past year.
The percentage of sexual harassment cases in the Israeli army rose to 20 per cent in 2017 compared to 18 per cent in 2016.
In the light of the escalation of sexual assaults in the Israeli army, the army launched last year an educational programme to prevent sexual assaults, and also set up a rehabilitation centre for soldiers who fall victim of sexual assaults.
“What is happening inside the army is a reflection of an entire society,” Palestinian expert in Israeli army affairs, Yousef Al-Sharqawi, said. He added that he believes the actual number of assaults is a lot higher.
Previous reports have revealed that one in six female Israeli soldiers said they had been sexually harassed during their military service in 2016, although actual figures could be much higher. Of those surveyed, 60 per cent of female officers said there was a climate of sexual harassment as officers made hurtful sexual comments and over a third were subject to inappropriate gestures.
There have also been numerous cases of sexual assault in the armed forces, resulting in some soldiers serving jail time after being convicted of rape.
In February 2017, Brigadier General Ofek Buchris, the highest ranking officer to face such allegations, reached a plea bargain after being charged with 16 counts of sexual assault which included three rapes. After admitting to the charges, he was demoted to the rank of colonel without having to serve any jail time, prompting harsh criticism from the public.
Such cases have caused women to doubt whether their grievances will be taken seriously, as reflected in figures released earlier this year which showed that although the number of complaints of sexual harassment to the army’s support centre has risen, the number of official complaints filed with Israel’s Military Police has dropped.