Palestinian Teenager Tamimi Who Slapped Israeli Soldiers is Denied Bail Ahead of Trial
An Israeli military court has denied bail to a 16-year-old Palestinian girl ahead of her trial for slapping and pushing two soldiers.
The ruling in the high-profile case against Ahed Tamimi has been denounced by human rights activists and her father, who said Palestinians could not expect justice in Israel’s military court system.
In video of the 15 December incident, the teenager is seen slapping and pushing the Israeli soldiers outside her West Bank home while demanding they “get out”. The men, wearing helmets and combat gear and armed with assault rifles, swatted away her blows.
Ahed’s family said she was upset because her 15-year-old cousin, Mohammad Tamimi, had been seriously wounded by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli troops in clashes earlier that day. Ahed was arrested along with her mother on 19 December after footage of the altercation went viral.
The soldiers had been deployed during protests in the village against Israeli policy on settlements in the West Bank, as well as US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Some Palestinians have embraced her as a symbol of resistance to Israel’s half-century of military occupation. Senior Israeli politicians have called for prosecutors to be tough to make an example of the teen, while a commentator in the Israeli left-wing newspaper Haaretz said Israel risked turning her into the “Palestinian Joan of Arc”.
Ahed‘s lawyer Gaby Lasky said the military court, convening at Israel’s Ofer prison near the Palestinian city of Ramallah, dismissed arguments that continued detention would violate her rights as a minor and concluded she would pose a danger if released on bail.
“They decided the trial will begin on 31 January, but although she is only 16 years old, the court believes that her indictment is enough to keep her in detention until the end of the trial,” the attorney told reporters.
An adult found guilty of assaulting a soldier could be jailed for up to 10 years, although a sentence that harsh is unlikely for a minor.
Amnesty International has called for Israel to release the teenager, who could spend months in prison awaiting trial.
“Nothing that Ahed Tamimi has done can justify the continuing detention of a 16-year-old girl,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, the charity’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
She added: “The Israeli authorities must release her without delay. In capturing an unarmed teenage girl’s assault on two armed soldiers wearing protective gear, the footage of this incident shows that she posed no actual threat and that her punishment is blatantly disproportionate.
“Ahed Tamimi’s ensuing arrest and military trial exposes the Israeli authorities’ discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children who dare to stand up to ongoing, often brutal, repression by occupying forces.”
The teen’s mother Nariman Tamimi has also been remanded in custody ahead of a trial. Nariman is accused of participating in an assault on the Israeli soldiers and using Facebook “to incite others to commit terrorist attacks”. Ahed's cousin Nour Tamimi, 20, was also arrested on 20 December and was released on bail on 5 January.
Ahed, whose father is a prominent Palestinian activist, made news two years ago when she was pictured biting a soldier who tried to arrest her younger brother.
The fact that it is not the first time Ahed has been involved in such an incident has led to Israeli accusations that she and her family deliberately provoke soldiers to create anti-Israeli propaganda.
They have nicknamed her "Shirley Temper", comparing her disparagingly to the child actor Shirley Temple.
And the recent footage has sparked a separate debate among Israelis over whether the soldiers should have taken immediate action to stop the slapping - or showed appropriate restraint.
Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The majority of the international community sees the 1967 occupation of the territory, and the subsequent development of Israeli settlements, to be illegal.