Palestinians clash with Israeli troops at rally for soldier-slapping teen
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Palestinians clash with Israeli troops at rally for soldier-slapping teen

Arab MK says IDF tried to prevent his attendance at solidarity protest for Ahed Tamimi in Nabi Saleh; army declares area a closed military zone

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces at a rally in support of members of the Tamimi family in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on January 13, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinians clash with Israeli forces at a rally in support of members of the Tamimi family in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on January 13, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops on Saturday near the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, as a rally was held there in support of a 16-year-old Palestinian girl arrested for slapping and shoving IDF soldiers.

Aheh Tamimi, along with her mother Nariman and cousin Nour, was arrested in December over a widely shared video in which the three could be seen violently accosting soldiers in Nabi Saleh, in an apparent attempt to provoke them. The mother and daughter were both charged in a military court earlier this month with aggravated assault of soldiers over the incident and remain in Israeli custody.

Nour Tamimi, 21, was also charged with aggravated assault of a soldier, but was ordered released by the court.

On Saturday, a rally was held for the Tamimis, with the Israeli military saying that hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers and shouted slogans inciting violence against Israelis. The IDF said troops responded with riot dispersal means and that there were no reported injuries.

The IDF also declared the area around the village a closed military zone, in light of the violence, the army said. However, it said it allowed Joint (Arab) List head Ayman Odeh to enter the village despite the closure.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at a rally in support of members of the Tamimi family in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on January 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

The army said it didn’t know whether Odeh participated in the clashes.

A spokeswoman for Odeh said soldiers tried to prevent the lawmaker from entering the village and asked to search his car, but eventually let him continue without doing so.

Odeh later posted a video of himself at the rally, which he said was attended by “thousands of Palestinians and Jews who came to call for the release of the heroes Ahed and Nariman Tamimi.”

“I would like to salute the Jewish peace forces for participating in the demonstration. They understand very well that a nation that enslaves another cannot be a free people. They understand that ending the occupation and establishing a genuine peace is of supreme interest to both Palestinians and Jews,” said Odeh in the video.

Ahed Tamimi’s father Bassem, himself a prominent campaigner against Israel’s presence in the West Bank, thanked participants Saturday for their “solidarity with Ahed.”

16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi (C) attends a hearing at the Ofer military court in the West Bank on January 1, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

Footage from the December 15 encounter between the Tamimis and soldiers in Nabi Saleh shows Ahed and Nour approaching two Israeli soldiers, then shoving, kicking, and slapping them, while filming on their cellphones.

They move backwards after Nariman arrives and begins pushing the soldiers herself. The armed soldiers do not respond in the face of what appears to be an attempt to provoke them.

In Ahed’s version of the incident, shared in front of the court during a hearing last month, she said that the same soldiers featured in the video had shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet an hour prior to the filmed encounter. “Then I saw the same soldiers who hit my cousin, this time in front of my house. I could not keep quiet and I responded as I did,” the 16-year-old testified.

Photos of Ahed’s cousin Muhammad Tamimi have been widely shared on Palestinian social media, showing the young boy’s face badly bruised and scarred. The Palestinian Ma’an news outlet had reported that he was in an induced coma due to the injuries, but has since regained consciousness.

Nabi Saleh — 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Ramallah — has been a frequent staging ground for clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, specifically members of the Tamimi family, which has a history of involvement in highly publicized clashes with the IDF.

Videos of the December 15 alleged assault were widely picked up by Israeli media, which often accuse Palestinian protesters of seeking to provoke the army into responses, only to be filmed. Ahed Tamimi has also since become an icon to Palestinians.

Some Israeli politicians hailed the restraint of the soldiers as evidence of the military’s values, while others called for tough responses in the face of seeming humiliation.

Palestinians on social media criticized Ahed’s arrest in the middle of the night, and have asserted it is the people’s right to resist military occupation.

In 2012, Ahed gained fame among Palestinian activists for an incident in which she led a group of children, including her younger brother, in arguing with Israeli soldiers. In a video of the incident, she can be seen repeatedly raising her balled fist at a soldier, poised to hit him, but never actually doing so.

Ahed first appeared before the Ofer Military Court on December 19. Explaining her decision to remand her at the time, Judge Lidor Drachman of the Judea region Juvenile Military Court said that while Ahed Tamimi did not pose any danger, concern that the teen would try to obstruct the investigation justified keeping her locked up.

Tamimi and her mother will be in court again on Monday for a hearing on a request that they be released until their trials begin.

AFP contributed to this report.

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