Female soldiers routinely harassed, Gilboa prison chief reveals

Prison commander says sexual harassments of female soldiers by Palestinian prisoners took place and was sponsored by former senior staff to keep the peace; victim demands justice

Meir Turgeman|
Female IDF soldiers suffered from routine sexual harassment on the part of the security prisoners in one of the country’s most high profile prisons, and with full knowledge of the senior staff, new testimony reveals.
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  • The phenomenon and its scope were revealed by Gilboa Prison commander, Freddy Ben Sheetrit, during the Prison Service’s (IPS) inquiry into the recent escape of six inmates from the same prison, last September.
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    כלא גלבוע
    כלא גלבוע
    Gilboa prison
    (Photo: iPS)
    The Prisoners dug a tunnel under their cell and broke free prompting weeks-long searches until they were all returned to custody.
    According to Ben Sheetrit, as part of his job as the head of Gilboa Prison, he made it his job to protect the soldiers stationed at the prison, after it was revealed that a former senior officer used to assign female soldiers to the prison's security bloc, despite repeated complaints of sexual harassment.
    “It was simply pimping of female soldiers to security prisoners… I made it my mission to see that this does not happen again. I saw it as my duty. [These soldiers] were like my children,” said Ben Sheetrit in his testimony.
    The IPS lambasted Ben Sheetrit and claimed that he was trying to divert public attention from the terrorists’ escape
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    פרדי בן שטרית
    פרדי בן שטרית
    Gilboa Prison commander, Freddy Ben Sheetrit
    (Photo: Yair Sagi )
    Despite the IPS’ denial of the allegations, Yael, who suffered from sexual harassment in 2017 by security prisoner Muhammad Atallah after she was sent to his wing by the same officer, echoes Ben Sheetrit’s story.
    “[The testimony] took me back. Everything they tried to hide was exposed and came out in that committee,” said Yael. “I demand justice and that the Prosecution reopen the case.”
    According to Yael, Atallah, who used to roam around the prison without handcuffs, told her that if she doesn't come to “work for him” he’ll start a riot.
    A few days later, she said, she was ordered by the senior officer to escort Atallah from place to place seemingly to appease him, which gave him ample opportunities to harass her.
    "This is a security prisoner who committed sexual offenses with nothing less than someone’s sponsorship," Yael’s lawyer added.
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    המנהרה שממנה ברחו שישה אסירים ביטחוניים מכלא גלבוע
    המנהרה שממנה ברחו שישה אסירים ביטחוניים מכלא גלבוע
    The tunnel in Gilboa prison from which the six inmates escaped
    (Photo: AFP)
    The lawyers representing two other former IDF soldiers who suffered from sexual harassment in Gilboa, said: “It is unfortunate that only now the system is willing to admit to these horrific acts after trying for years to present our clients in a humiliating and degrading manner.”
    "The two represented in our office will receive their day in court in civil proceedings filed against the state… Now with exposure, it is time to reopen the cases against the officers and stop this shameful cover-up.”
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