Case against Palestinian teen spotlights her activist family

NABI SALEH: Israel’s hard-charging prosecution of a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who slapped and kicked two Israeli soldiers has trained a spotlight on her activist family and its role in what Palestinians call “popular resistance,” the near-weekly protests against Israeli occupation staged in several West Bank villages.

The case of Ahed Tamimi has come to embody rival, grievance-filled Palestinian and Israeli narratives at a time of overwhelming mutual distrust about the other side’s intentions and skepticism about chances of ending the long-running conflict.

Many Palestinians have embraced the teen as a symbol of a new generation standing up to Israeli rule.

In Israel, she is seen either as a naive youth manipulated by her elders, a serial trouble-maker or a threat to Israel’s image and military deterrence.

The December incident that catapulted her into the headlines came 10 days after President Donald Trump’s recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a decision seen as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict.

Trump’s move triggered Palestinian protests, including in Nabi Saleh, a village of about 600 members of the Tamimi clan. Since 2009, villagers have protested the seizure of some of their land and a spring for a nearby Israeli settlement, with demonstrations often ending in clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers firing tear gas, rubber bullets or live rounds.

On Dec. 15, the army said villagers were throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and a nearby road used by Israelis.

Ahed’s mother, Nariman, captured events live on Facebook, including soldiers firing stun grenades.

At one point, Ahed and her 20-year-old cousin, Nour Tamimi, approached an Israeli captain and a first sergeant at the edge of the family’s walled front yard. Ahed yelled at them to leave, then started pushing and kicking the soldiers, who casually fended off the blows. Then she hit both in the face, according to the charges.

The video caused uproar in Israel, amid complaints the soldiers had been humiliated. Ahed was arrested Dec. 19, followed by her mother and cousin.

Three weeks later, Nour is free on bail, while Ahed and her mother remain in detention. Ahed faces lengthy prison time — potentially up to 14 years — after being charged with 12 counts of attacking and threatening soldiers in five incidents going back to April 2016.

Ahed’s cousin, 15-year-old Mohammed, was shot in the head Dec. 15 by a rubber-coated steel pellet of the type used by Israel’s military, and is now back home after surgery. Ahed’s family said word of his grave injury helped set her off against the soldiers that day.

Part of Mohammed’s left skull had to be removed by surgeons, with the bone to be replaced in coming months. Late last week, the teen— who as a 14-year-old spent three months in Israeli detention, accused of stone-throwing — spoke slowly and clearly, but appeared tired, resting his maimed head on the arm rest of a sofa in his family’s living room.

In the neighboring village of Deir Nidham, the Tamimi clan mourned 17-year-old Musab Tamimi, who was killed by Israeli army fire in clashes with stone-throwers last week. The military said the teen carried a weapon, but provided no evidence. His family denies he was armed. In clashes after Musab’s funeral, 17-year-old Mohammed Barghouti was critically wounded by a shot to the forehead, according to hospital officials. The Israeli military declined further comment on the incidents.

Soldiers only resort to rubber bullets or live fire when warranted, typically when facing lethal threats, said an officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with briefing regulations. In addition to firebombs, he included rock-throwing in its definition of such threats. The fathers of Ahed, Nour and Mohammed said arrest and injury were the price of resisting occupation.


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