A Palestinian minor has been arrested in Nablus on suspicion of raping an Israeli girl in Tel Aviv, the third arrest of its kind in the past two months.
Israel Border Police announced yesterday that it had arrested an underage Palestinian from the village of Qabalan, off Route 60 south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The minor – who has not been named – is suspected of serial sexual assault, which includes raping an underage Israeli girl he encountered in Tel Aviv and “indecent acts” towards other women and girls.
Police claim that the Palestinian entered Israel illegally last month, proceeding to carry out the alleged crime in Tel Aviv. They did not, however, provide further details about how the minor had made the journey from Qabalan to Tel Aviv and back again, which would require crossing multiple heavily-manned checkpoints.
Early yesterday morning police raided several homes in Qabalan after what it called “a lengthy and complex undercover investigation”. Now the Tel Aviv Juvenile Court has ordered the minor be remanded in custody for five days pending further investigation.
Yesterday’s arrest marks the third such case in the past two months, after Israel Police wrongly arrested 46-year-old Mahmoud Katusa in connection with the alleged rape of a seven-year-old Israeli girl from the Haredi settlement of Modi’in Ilit, near Israel’s Separation Wall.
Katusa – who hails from the West Bank village of Deir Qadis – was arrested and detained for 55 days in connection with the suspected incident, with the charges against him claiming he had groomed the girl while working as a maintenance worker at her school.
The case also claimed that on the day of the alleged incident, Katusa dragged the girl in question to a nearby apartment where he was working and, with the help of Palestinian friends who held her down, raped the child.
However, after multiple discrepancies appeared in the case and Israel Police found to have withheld crucial evidence which could have exonerated Katusa, the charges against him were eventually dropped. Katusa is now suing Israel Police for the time it kept him in detention and for the authorities’ negligent handling of the case.
Two more Palestinians were subsequently arrested in connection with the case, but were released just days later without charge. The case remains ongoing, with an Israeli police official saying earlier this month that, “in the coming weeks, they will be seeking to question all Palestinians that were in the ultra-Orthodox city-settlement in the central West Bank during the period they believe the girl had been raped”.
The official hastened to add that “they have not ruled out the possibility that a fellow Jewish resident could have been the perpetrator”.
Last month, another unnamed Palestinian was arrested on suspicion of raping a 13-year-old Israeli girl in the city of Ashdod, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
In a case which bore striking similarities to that of the false allegations against Katusa, Israel Police claimed the Palestinian had established a relationship with the teenager while carrying out renovation work at her boarding school in Ashdod. The police also claimed the man then fled to the West Bank, prompting a manhunt which eventually led to his arrest.
However, the police were subsequently forced to open a separate investigation into the incident after it was revealed that the accused Palestinian had reported to as many as five police stations – of his own volition – in order to give testimony and refute the allegations against him, but was repeatedly turned away and told he wasn’t wanted for questioning.
The Palestinian man’s lawyer, Shani Farjun, said of the incident: “I’ve never seen a suspect who tries to turn himself in so many times and no one takes any notice […] his conduct and desire to be questioned are the best testimony to his innocence, for he did not try to escape questioning and did all he could to clear his name.”