Israel releases 12-year-old would-be stabber from jail

Citing young age, Prisons Service frees girl who confessed to planning attack in West Bank settlement

A 12-year-old Palestinian girl who confessed to planning to carry out a stabbing attack was released Sunday from Israeli prison, according to Palestinian media reports.

Dima al-Wawi was arrested in early February in possession of a knife outside the West Bank settlement of Karmei Tzur, near Hebron, and sentenced to four and a half months in prison. In recent weeks, at the request of her parents, the prison service decided to free her early.

Prison service spokesman Assaf Librati said last week that authorities had decided to release her on April 24, six weeks before her scheduled release. He said the decision was made because of her “young age.”

Al-Wawi pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter under a plea bargain.

The case had put Israel’s military justice system in a difficult spot and drawn attention to disparities between how Israelis and Palestinians are treated under the law.

Representatives of her family said al-Wawi’s treatment would have been different had she not been Palestinian.

“Prison is not a place for a small child,” said Abeer Baker, one of al-Wawi’s lawyers. “If it were a Jewish girl, she wouldn’t stay in prison for even one hour because it is forbidden according to the Israeli law.”

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War, and Palestinian residents there are subject to a system of military law that can sentence suspects as young as 12 to prison. In contrast, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel are subject to Israeli civil law, which does not send anyone under 14 to prison.

Al-Wawi’s arrest came amid a nearly seven-month wave of violence in which Palestinian attackers have killed 29 Israelis and four non-Israelis in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in Israel and the West Bank. Over 190 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

Many of the Palestinian attackers have been teenagers or in their early 20s. Al-Wawi came from Halhul, a village near Hebron, a city that has been a focal point of violence.

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