NABI SALEH, West Bank – On the eve of Ahed Tamimi’s release from prison, the father of the Palestinian protest icon said Saturday that he expects her to take a lead in the struggle against Israeli occupation but that the 17-year-old is also weighing college options.
In Tamimi’s village of Nabi Saleh, supporters prepared for Sunday’s homecoming, planting Palestinian flags on the roof of her family home and setting up hundreds of chairs for well-wishers in the courtyard.
Ahed and her mother Nariman were arrested in December, after Ahed slapped two Israeli soldiers outside the family home and Nariman filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook. Both are to be released Sunday.
To Palestinians and their international supporters, Ahed has become a symbol of resistance to Israel’s half-century-old military rule over the Palestinians. She is easily recognizable with her unruly mop of curly hair.
In Israel, she is seen by many as either as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence.
Ahed’s father Bassem said Saturday that after her release from prison, “we expect her to lead and we will support her to lead” in the fight to end occupation. He did not say what this would entail.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians are increasingly disillusioned about efforts to establish a state in those territories, after more than two decades of failed negotiations with Israel.
Bassem Tamimi said that his daughter completed her high school exams in prison, with the help of other prisoners who taught the required material. He said she initially hoped to attend a West Bank university but has also received scholarship offers abroad.
Ahed was 16 when she was arrested and turned 17 in custody. Her case has trained a spotlight on the detention of Palestinian minors by Israel, a practice that has been criticized by international rights groups. Some 300 minors are currently being held, according to Palestinian figures.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops on Saturday detained two Italian artists who had painted a large mural of Ahed Tamimi on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, according to local activist Munther Amireh and amateur video posted online.
The video shows armed soldiers ordering the two men, along with a Palestinian activist, to get out of a car next to the separation barrier. They are led away through an opening in the barrier. Israel’s military had no immediate comment.