NABI SALEH: A Palestinian teenager released by Israel on Sunday after completing a prison term for kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier urged continued struggle against Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a call echoed by the Palestinian president.
Ahed Tamimi, 17, became a heroine to Palestinians after the incident last December outside her home in Nabi Saleh, a village which has campaigned for years against land seizures by Israel, leading to confrontations with the Israeli military and Jewish settlers.
Israelis regarded the incident, which Tamimi’s mother relayed live on Facebook, as a staged provocation.
Tamimi, who was 16 at the time of her detention, faced 12 charges, including aggravated assault. In March, she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge sheet that included assault and was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, dating back to her arrest in December.
Wearing her trademark black-and-white chequered Arab scarf, Tamimi greeted dozens of well-wishers in brief remarks outside the home of a Nabi Saleh villager killed by Israeli forces.
“From this martyr’s house, I say: resistance is continuing until the occupation is removed,” she told reporters. “All the female prisoners in jail are strong, and I thank everyone who stood by me while I was in prison.”
Her father Bassem put his arms around Ahed and her mother as they walked together along the road, the crowd chanting “we want to live in freedom”.
Tamimi later visited the tomb of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah and laid flowers there, before meeting Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
Abbas praised Ahed and described her as a model of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, independence and statehood, said a statement on official news agency WAFA.
“He stressed that non-violent resistance which Ahed embodies has proven to be an ideal and vital weapon in facing the repression of the Israeli occupation.”
Israeli authorities appeared keen to avoid media coverage of the release as much as possible, and conflicting information had meant supporters and journalists scrambled to arrive on time at the correct location.
Tamimi and her mother had been driven early on Sunday from Israel’s Sharon prison into the West Bank, authorities said.
But the location of the checkpoint where they were to cross into the territory was changed three times before it was finally announced they were being taken to a crossing at Rantis, about an hour’s drive from the initial location.
Family members and supporters gathered at the checkpoint to greet them, but the military vehicles driving them did not stop, instead continuing towards Nabi Saleh.
There had been slight tension at the checkpoint before Tamimi’s arrival as a few men with Israeli flags approached supporters holding Palestinian flags. Words were exchanged but there was no violence.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the case, Israeli authorities on Saturday arrested two Italians and a Palestinian for painting Tamimi’s now-familiar image on the Israeli separation wall cutting off the West Bank.
Both Tamimi and her mother were sentenced to eight months by an Israeli military court following a plea deal over the December incident, which the family said took place in their garden in Nabi Saleh.
They were released some three weeks early, a common practice by Israeli authorities due to overcrowded prisons, Tamimi’s lawyer Gaby Lasky said.
Rights activists had condemned Tamimi’s jailing. Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch tweeted on Sunday that “Israel’s jailing of a child for eight months — for calling for protests and slapping a soldier — reflects endemic discrimination, absence of due process and ill-treatment of kids.”
“Ahed Tamimi is free, but 100s of Palestinian children remain locked up with little attention on their cases,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2018