Fresh out of prison, Ahed Tamimi vows to keep on fighting

At homecoming press conference, 17-year-old, who served over seven months for skirmish with IDF soldiers, calls on Palestinians to rally for release of security prisoners

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

NABI SALEH, West Bank — In her first public appearance since being released from prison Sunday morning, Ahed Tamimi vowed to continue her struggle against Israeli military rule.

“My message here is that our resistance will continue, particularly our resistance for equal rights,” she said through a translator at a press conference here, in her village of Nabi Saleh.

The 17-year-old urged Palestinians not to neglect the security prisoners that remain in Israeli jails, particularly the dozens who are also minors.

“While I am happy to have been released, my happiness is not complete knowing that there are still those suffering in Israeli jails. I call on Palestinians to act for their release,” said Tamimi, who in the past has called for suicide bombings and other attacks in the effort to “liberate Palestine.”

A billboard with Ahed Tamimi’s picture at the entrance to the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on July 29, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

The teen was sentenced to eight months in prison after being filmed slapping and shoving IDF soldiers outside her home in the central West Bank village late last year.

Under the terms of a March plea bargain, Ahed admitted to aggravated assault against an IDF soldier, incitement to violence and disrupting soldiers on two other occasions.

Her cousin Nour and mother, Nariman, were also seen confronting Israeli soldiers in the video, which was shared widely in the wake of the incident. The former was released in January as charges against her were less severe, but Nariman received a sentence equivalent to that of Ahed and was released along with her on Sunday morning.

Ahed Tamimi made a point of thanking her mother in front of reporters. “Her ability to remain strong is what helped me endure,” she said, adding that “women are a key part of the Palestinian fight for freedom.”

Ahed’s incarceration has drawn attention from around the globe, highlighting the teen’s image as a Palestinian icon. She has become a cause célèbre for Palestinian supporters, and rallieswere held in several locations calling for her release.

Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Ahed Tamimi in Ramallah on July 29. 2018. (WAFA)

Many Palestinians see her as bravely standing up to military control over the West Bank, while Israelis accuse her family of using her as a pawn.

The teen completed her service several weeks early at the Hasharon Prison due to administrative leave. She was dropped off early Sunday at the Rantis checkpoint in the central West Bank.

After being mobbed by friends family and press, Tamimi made her way to Ramallah, where she paid a visit to the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Embracing the teen, the PA leader called her “a model for the Palestinian struggle.”

More than one hundred reporters waited for Tamimi’s arrival at the afternoon press conference, and she earned a celebrity’s welcome as she climbed out of her family’s car.

Palestinian activist and campaigner Ahed Tamimi (C) gestures, as she stands between her father (C-L) and mother (C-R), during a press conference in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on July 29, 2018. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

Seeking a selfie with Nabi Saleh’s most well-recognized resident, neighbors and supporters swarmed the girl, who seemed largely unfazed by the camera flashes and attention.

Before beginning the press conference, she slowly walked over to a grave at the edge of the village to pay tribute to one of her cousins killed earlier this year in clashes with IDF troops.

Tamimi was decked in black for the occasion — from her T-shirt and leggings down to her nail polish. But the color of her outfit did not appear to reflect her mood, as she flashed smiles at friends and neighbors in the village whom she had not seen since December.

Beginning the press conference seated in between her mother and father, Tamimi thanked “everyone who has stood with me while I was in prison.”

But immediately after concluding the niceties, she began reciting a laundry list of messages she wanted to send to the Palestinian public as well as the international community.

These included a message of solidarity with the residents of the Gaza Strip and Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village that Israel plans to demolish.

She also called for national unity so that Palestinians could more effectively fight for the release of security prisoners.

“I want to also reiterate the message that Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Palestine,” she said, repeating an assertion she was recorded making during the viral December incident, which came weeks after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Tamimi also made a point of criticizing the nation-state law that was  passed by the Knesset earlier this month.

“We refuse this law,” she said.

Other than Bassem Tamimi having to remind his daughter to pause every so often to give the translator time to recap what she had just said, Ahed appeared composed throughout the 30-minute conference.

She said that thanks to the help of fellow inmates, she managed to complete her high school degree while in prison.

“I have decided to study law and focus on holding the occupation accountable,” Tamimi gushed.

At the end of her prepared remarks, she declared that she would not be taking questions from the handful of Israeli reporters present among the throng of journalists for Arab outlets.

“I’m boycotting the Israeli media because they have consistently defamed my family and our struggle,” she said.

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