Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel

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Media caption,

Ahed Tamimi is released from prison

A Palestinian teenager who was filmed assaulting an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank has been freed after eight months in jail.

Video showing Ahed Tamimi slapping and kicking the soldier outside her home in Nabi Saleh last year went viral.

For Palestinians, she became a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation, but many Israelis see her as a publicity-seeking troublemaker.

The 17-year-old was mobbed by well-wishers as she returned to her town.

"Resistance is continuing until the occupation is removed," she told the crowd.

Speaking to the media later, she said she had resolved "to study law and to focus on holding the occupation accountable".

Sixteen at the time, she was originally charged with 12 counts of assault, incitement, interference with soldiers and stone throwing.

In March, she agreed to plead guilty to four of the charges, including incitement and assault.

The day before Ahed Tamimi was released, two Italians were arrested for drawing a 4m (13ft) mural of the teenager's face on the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.

Israeli border police said the two Italian men, and a Palestinian who was also arrested, were suspected of "damaging and vandalising the security fence in the Bethlehem area".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The mural was created in the last week

The group then allegedly tried to flee when confronted by police.

Last Wednesday, one of the men identified himself as Italian street artist Jorit Agoch. He posted an appeal for help on his Instagram page on Saturday, saying he had been arrested.

How did the incident go viral?

Ahed Tamimi was filmed by her mother, Nariman, shouting at and shoving two soldiers in the driveway of her family home on 15 December 2017.

The incident was streamed on Nariman Tamimi's Facebook page and video of the confrontation was widely viewed.

In the footage she kicks one soldier and slaps his face, and threatens to punch the other.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Both Ahed Tamimi (R) and her mother Nariman served time in jail over the incident

Ahed Tamimi told a pre-trial hearing that she had lashed out at the soldiers because she had seen them shoot her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed in the head with a rubber bullet that same day.

The Israeli military said it had dispatched the soldiers to the Tamimis' home, where Palestinian youths had been throwing stones at troops sent to quell violent protests.

It also later contested the cause of Mohammed's head injury, saying he had told interrogators he had fallen off his bike. However according to Palestinian hospital records he had been shot by Israeli soldiers; Mohammed also retracted his account, saying he had made it out of fear of being arrested for protesting.

saying last month that the boy had told interrogators he sustained it from falling off a bike.

What was the fallout?

Ahed Tamimi's case sparked an outpouring of deeply opposing views between Israelis and Palestinians.

Many Israelis say Ahed Tamimi has long been exploited by her family, who they accuse of using her to try to provoke Israeli soldiers on film.

Her mother was also charged with incitement on social media and assault, while her cousin Nour, who participated in the incident, was charged with assault.

Israel's Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Ahed and Nour Tamimi deserved to "finish their lives in prison".

For Palestinians, Ahed Tamimi has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.

Her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organised by her father calling for her release gathered 1.7m signatures.