Israel Police is looking into claims that female soldiers who were doing their military service in a maximum-security prison as guards were “pimped” to Palestinian terrorists in order to get concessions from the inmates, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said on Thursday.
The phenomenon reportedly took place in the maximum-security Gilboa Prison in northern Israel. Prison commander Freddy Ben Sheetrit mentioned the issue and detailed its scope Wednesday during an Israel Prison Service (IPS) inquiry into six inmates who broke out of the facility last September, sparking a major outcry from the public and politicians alike.
The six tunneled out of the prison in a rare escape that triggered a massive, weeks-long nationwide manhunt before they were all recaptured.
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 this as my duty. [These soldiers] were like my children,” Ben Sheetrit said in his testimony.
The IPS lambasted Ben Sheetrit and claimed that he was trying to divert public attention from the jailbreak that took place under his watch.
Barlev said that he found Ben Sheetrit's testimony "absolutely shocking and appalling" and added that he appealed to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to reexamine the findings of a 2018 probe into the case.
Meanwhile, the inquiry also found that a senior IPS official warned of a possible jailbreak in Gilboa Prison five days before the inmates enacted their escape plan.
"There is erosion in the conduct of procedures in all prisons. Procedures need to be refreshed — and there is a possibility of an escape," IPS Deputy Chief Commissioner Moni Bitan wrote in a circular distributed among service members.
Ben Sheetrit claimed in his testimony that he did not receive the document.