A top Israeli military official accused a celebrated Palestinian family of taking the world for a ride Monday, claiming that a teen suffered an injury from falling off a bike and not an IDF-fired rubber bullet, but medical records released by the family disprove the charges of chicanery.
Mohammed Tamimi’s head injury is at the center of a case that has sparked a flurry of criticism against Israel, after Ahed Tamimi, then 16, was arrested for slapping an IDF soldier and put on trial.
Ahed has said in court she was angry over her cousin being shot by soldiers hours earlier, but on Monday, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai contested that claim, after Mohammed and eight others were arrested in an IDF raid of the West Bank town of Nebi Saleh early Monday morning.
Hours after Mohammed’s release, Mordechai posted on Facebook that the 15-year-old had admitted to interrogators that he had sustained his head injury from falling off of his bike and hitting his head on the handlebars.
Citing an article in which Muhammad’s father Fadel described how his son took a rubber bullet to the skull while witnessing December clashes with IDF soldiers, Mordechai blasted the Tamimi family as a group of con-artists.
“The culture of lies continues among young and old in the Tamimi family,” the COGAT head wrote in both Hebrew and Arabic posts.
But records from the boy’s visit to the Istishari Hospital in Ramallah, released by the Tamimi family, contradict Mordechai’s claim.
“The above-mentioned patient presented to our hospital on 15/12/2017 immediately after a bullet injury (head trauma) by Israeli soldiers (left maxillary area entrance, no exit wound),” the document begins.
The Tamimi family panned Mordechai and others who have claimed the Tamimis are merely playing parts to make Israel look bad.
“What began with a far-fetched attempt to claim that we are not a real family at all has now moved to the denial of documented reality,” the statement read.
The family, and particularly Ahed, is well known for frequent media appearances, earning them a reputation as “provocateurs” among some in Israel.
A 2015 investigation held by a Knesset subcommittee led by deputy minister Michael Oren (Kulanu) probed whether the Tamimi family was “real” or composed of hired actors.
After considerable backlash, Oren admitted last month that the investigation’s results “were not conclusive and there remains a big question mark over the issue.”
On Monday, the Tamimi family lashed out at Mordechai and the Israeli government, saying there is “no limit to how low Israel is willing to sink in its attempt to discredit the Tamimis’ just struggle for liberation against Israeli colonialism.”
Ahed Tamimi, now 17, burst back into the headlines in December after she was filmed berating two soldiers who were standing in the garden outside her house, eventually slapping one of them across the face.
She has since become a cause célèbre for Palestinian supporters, and rallies have been held in several locations calling for her release. 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 in staged provocations.
In her version of the incident, shared in front of the court during a hearing in December, 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,” Tamimi testified.
Muhammad’s injury required doctors to put him in a coma and remove a portion of his skull.
His father told the Palestinian Wattan TV Monday that he tried pleading with the soldiers who came to arrest him and others that they return next week after Muhammad undergoes a second surgery to fix his skull.
An army spokeswoman told The Times of Israel that “the 15-year-old was checked by an IDF medic and was found fit for custody.
He was questioned under caution by Israel Police for his participation in a “violent riot” and released hours later, the spokeswoman said.
On Tuesday morning, Muhammad’s family also released pictures of his x-ray as well as the bloodied bullet itself after it was removed from his skull.
They explained that after considerable pressure from police, the 15-year-old told interrogators that he had fallen off of his bike because he thought standing by his original story would get him into further trouble.
״Israel arrested an injured, post-traumatic 15-year-old in the middle of the night and got him to lie out of fear of being sent to prison in his condition,” their statement said.
The family also pointed out that the minor was questioned by himself, without a parent or lawyer present.
Pictures of the bullet and scull x-ray released by the family. pic.twitter.com/pRLOs8T2Z4
— Jacob Magid (@JacobMagid) February 27, 2018