Middle East

Israeli soldiers detain 16-year-old activist known worldwide

This screen grab shows Ahed Tamimi arguing with a Israeli soldier. (The Daily Star/Tamimi s Twitter account)

BEIRUT: Ahed Tamimi, a defiant 16-year-old Palestinian who has become well-known for her fierce activism against the Israeli occupation, was detained before dawn Tuesday during an Israeli raid on her home in the occupied West Bank.

Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, told The Daily Star that the arrest came after a video of her clashing with Israeli soldiers Friday went viral.

Her mother, Nariman, was also later detained when she tried to find information about her daughter at the Benjamin Detention Center.

“They have been moved to another prison. We don’t know where they were taken. We filed a request for release,” Bassem said.

Ahed is known worldwide for her struggle against Israeli illegal settlement building and has participated in conferences in cities like Brussels, Istanbul, Johannesburg and Beirut to shed light on the plight of Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation. At age 13, Ahed won the Handala Courage Award in Turkey.

Her father said Israeli soldiers raided their home in Nabi Saleh before dawn, forced the whole family into one room and announced that they were there to detain Ahed.

“They refused to let her mother go with her to the room to change,” Bassem said, adding that within minutes of the raid they led her out of the house.

“They even refused to let us hug her. They did not let us speak to her so we yelled out words of encouragement to her as she was being taken. She’s resilient and her morale was high,” he said.

Afterward, he said, the soldiers searched the house and confiscated the family’s phones, laptops, hard disks and other electronics.

Ahed hails from Nabi Saleh, a village in the occupied West Bank where weekly demonstrations against illegal settlement constructions, land and resources theft have been held since December 2009.

Known for her fearlessness in the face of Israeli soldiers, Ahed has been participating in the protests from a young age. She’s often photographed standing up to Israeli forces as they forcefully disperse demonstrators.One iconic image, two years ago, shows her biting a masked Israeli soldier who had her 12-year-old brother in a choke-hold. The photo was widely shared around the world.

At the time, Nariman told The Daily Star that during the scuffle with the Israeli soldiers, Ahed was the first one who ran to defend her brother.

Nariman described her daughter as shy, but added that when confronted with Israeli soldiers and the injustices around her, “her timidity transforms into something else: rage.”

“She’s an icon of the resistance and the protector of our family,” she added. Bassem is expecting the worst, saying that the Israelis will try to keep her in prison for the longest time possible.

“I feel scared but also very proud – Ahed has become a symbol for her generation, and the ones before and after hers and the Israelis are trying to break this model.”

In Friday’s video, Ahed first tells two Israeli soldiers to get off the family’s property. When her attempts fail, she and others try to push the soldiers away. Then Ahed is seen slapping and kicking the soldiers.

Moments earlier, Israeli soldiers had shot point-blank Ahed’s 14-year-old cousin with a rubber bullet during demonstrations against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Bassem said the boy’s condition was critical.

“After the video was released, the Israeli media and officials started an incitement campaign against Ahed,” Bassem said, adding that he believes his daughter was arrested in response to this incitement.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett threatened Tuesday that Ahed could face seven years in prison, AFP reported.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 20, 2017, on page 1.

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