Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday called Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi “a model for the Palestinian struggle,” as he met with her shortly after she was released from Israeli prison.
Tamimi, 17, who was jailed for more than seven months after she was filmed slapping and kicking a soldier, was set free earlier in the day, returning to celebrations in her hometown of Nabi Saleh in the central West Bank.
“The Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi is a model for the Palestinian struggle for freedom, independence and the establishment of our independent Palestinian state,” Abbas said, according to the official PA news agency Wafa.
Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials welcomed Tamimi and her family at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
Tamimi’s incarceration had drawn attention from around the globe, highlighting the teen’s image as a Palestinian icon. She had become a cause célèbre for Palestinian supporters, and rallies were held in several locations calling for her release after her arrest in December.
Many Palestinians saw her as bravely standing up to military control over the West Bank, while Israelis accused her family of using her as a pawn.
Following her release release on Sunday, Tamimi was greeted by hundreds of supporters and journalists in Nabi Saleh.
In her first public comments since being released, she thanked her supporters and declared that “the resistance is ongoing.”
Top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat used the opportunity to swipe at US negotiator Jason Greenblatt, saying Tamimi’s incarceration was “a chapter of shame to those who never condemn any of Israel’s crimes, like the so-called American peace envoys.”
On Thursday, Greenblatt slammed the Palestinian leadership for failing to condemn a deadly terror attack in the Israeli settlement of Adam.
Ahed’s father Bassem said Saturday that after her release from prison “we expect her to lead and we will support her to lead” in the fight to end occupation. He did not say what that would entail.
Bassem Tamimi said that his daughter completed her high school exams in prison with the help of other prisoners who taught the required material. He said she initially hoped to attend a West Bank university but has also received scholarship offers abroad.
Under the terms of a plea bargain, Ahed was sentenced to eight months in prison and admitted to aggravated assault of an IDF soldier, incitement to violence and disrupting soldiers on two other occasions.
The teen’s cousin Nour was also indicted for her involvement in the quarrel, but she was released in January.
Ahed is expected to speak in a press conference later Sunday.
Jacob Magid and AFP contributed to this report.