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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Teen Ahed Tamimi, symbol of Palestinian resistance, prepares for freedom

AFP, Saturday 28 Jul 2018
File Photo: Teenage Palestinian activist and campaigner Ahed Tamimi arrives for the beginning of her trial in the Israeli military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank (Photo: AFP)
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A Palestinian teenager jailed by Israel for slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank is to go free on Sunday after eight months behind occupation bars.

Ahed Tamimi was arrested on December 19, days after she was recorded on video with her cousin Nour Tamimi in the yard of their home in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, telling two Israeli occupation soldiers to leave, then shoving, kicking and slapping them.

She was aged 16 at the time and turned 17 in prison.

She was refused bail throughout her detention and subsequent trial in an Israeli military court on charges including assault, stone-throwing, incitement to violence and making threats.

On March 21 the court agreed a plea bargain giving her an eight-month sentence including time already spent in custody.

The same court hearing freed Nour Tamimi immediately, when she accepted a plea deal.

Ahed comes from a family well known for its resistance to the Israeli occupation army.

December video went viral and turned her into a symbol of the Palestinian struggle against the agression committed by the Israeli occupation forces.

Tamimi is a hero, jailed for standing up to soldiers occupying her land and intruding upon her family home.

This week an Italian artist daubed a 14-foot image of her face and curly reddish hair on the Israeli separation wall in the occupied West Bank.

On Sunday she is expected to step back into the spotlight at a scheduled press conference at her home after her release.

As Ahed and Nour pummel the soldiers the two cousins simultaneously film the scene on their phones, apparently seeking to provoke them.

The soldiers do not react, however, backing away instead.

Yet after the girls -- and Ahed's mother, who also recorded the incident -- were arrested and then hit with a list of charges, there was criticism even within Israel that military prosecutors were overreacting.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met with her family and hailed her courage.

With each court appearance, media attention grew and helped create a Palestinian icon.

Yara Hawari, a Palestinian activist and friend of the Tamimi family, said the tough sentence helped build support.

"It was a symbolic image of a child confronting a heavily armed Israeli soldier at her home," she told AFP.

"The fact that what she did got her so long in prison is also something that drew a lot of attention."

The Tamimi case also highlighted other aspects of the Israeli military court system including its more than 99 percent conviction rate for Palestinians.

Omar Shakir, head of NGO Human Rights Watch in Israel, said her release on Sunday would be a moment to reflect on what he called the "endemic" ill-treatment of children in the Israeli legal system.

"Ahed Tamimi will soon be free, but hundreds of Palestinian children remain locked up with little attention on their cases," he said.

How Tamimi will cope with her return to the public eye is unclear, but indications are she will be vocal.

Her father Bassem, who was not jailed in the incident, has been campaigning against Israel's military occupation of the West Bank for decades.

"I don't think any child can be totally ready to become a prominent symbol of the Palestinian struggle, but Ahed is a very strong child," Hawari said.

"We have seen from the interrogation videos, from how she behaves in court, that she is incredibly confident and resilient. So I think she will take this in her stride."

*This story has been edited by Ahram Online. 

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