Father of Palestinian Girl Slapping Israeli Soldier in Viral Video: She Was Upset Because Relative Was Shot in Head

Conversations with people of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh show why Ahed Tamimi, 16, was wary about the Israeli army's entry into her home's courtyard

Palestinian protester Ahed Tamimi, right, appears at that military court at Ofer Prison in the West Bank, December 20, 2017.
Ahmad Gharabli / AFP

On Friday, shortly after a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was shot by an Israeli soldier with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, an ambulance took him to a Palestinian hospital. It was then that soldiers came to the courtyard of the home of Bassem and Nariman Tamimi, distant relatives of the boy, Mohammed Tamimi.

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Their daughter Ahed and her friend were filmed lightly striking two of the soldiers, forcing them to leave their courtyard. On Tuesday, Ahed and Nariman were arrested. Bassem told Haaretz that morning that his daughter, who will be 17 in January, was angry because Mohammed had been shot and people in the village didn’t know if he would survive.

Military sources who were questioned about the shooting said they were aware of the claim that a Palestinian had been wounded.

The previous Friday morning, soldiers were stationed in a structure near an uninhabited villa on a hill north of Ahed’s home. From there, they fired at stone-throwers to disperse them. The villa and the structure are surrounded by a high wall, with a ladder set up permanently at the wall.

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An eyewitness told Haaretz that Mohammed Tamimi had climbed the ladder. The moment his head appeared above the wall, he was shot and fell back with the ladder, bleeding profusely. It is believed that he was shot from only a few meters away.

Over the weekend he underwent complicated surgery; the doctors extracted the bullet from his skull and stabilized his condition. He was in an induced coma until Monday morning, when doctors awakened him; he said a few words to his parents. He was then sedated again.

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The Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman told journalists that on Friday morning “a violent disturbance developed near the village of Nabi Saleh involving about 200 Palestinians, who burned tires and threw stones at IDF forces. The forces responded with riot-dispersal means.”

An eyewitness told Haaretz that young men threw stones toward the road and at Israeli soldiers at a number of points, and that the soldiers gradually went up into the village, shooting at the young men and shooting tear-gas canisters between the houses. Two Nabi Saleh residents said soldiers go into courtyards, set up ambushes and shoot from them.

“We’re in danger from both directions,” an older resident said. “On the one hand the tear gas and the shooting, and on the other the stones the young men throw at the soldiers in our courtyards.”

The man and another Nabi Saleh resident, a woman, said they believed this was the reason Ahed and her friends insisted on getting the soldiers out of their courtyard. Bassem, Ahed’s father, said a paralyzed older woman lives in the neighboring house and his daughter didn’t want the soldiers to shoot at her.

‘The occupation clock’

During Ahed’s face-off with the soldiers, Bassem was visiting a relative nearby, when he said tear gas was fired “imprisoning us in the house.” So he didn’t see what was happening.

“Someone from the village filmed the incident with Ahed and we decided to post it on the internet,” he said. “We know it was dangerous because they could use it against us, but we thought it was important for the Palestinian people and others to see an example of resistance to soldiers.”

Still, Bassem said he was surprised at the magnitude of the “incitement,” as he called it, in the Israeli media and on social media, spurred by the post. On Tuesday, he told reporters who came to his home that this incitement was the direct reason for his daughter’s arrest.

“We expected them to come and arrest her,” he told Haaretz. “But [Monday] night we went to sleep as usual because we aren’t willing to subordinate our biological clocks to the occupation clock.”

Bassem said that between 3 A.M. and 4 A.M., someone phoned them to report that soldiers had entered the village. A few minutes later they heard loud banging on the door and calls in Arabic to open up. Tear-gas canisters were fired at the doors of neighboring houses.

Later Bassem discovered that a tear-gas canister had broken one of their windows. Nariman went to wake up the children and Bassem opened the door. He said soldiers, both male and female, and Border Police officers entered the house with more than usual aggression and pushed him. One of the children said there were 15 soldiers and Border Police officers, who conducted a search, emptying the closets.

The soldiers did not allow them to film the search and said they had come to arrest Ahed. They did not let her mother go with her into a room to get dressed, and they confiscated all the cellphones, computers and cameras in the house.

A few hours later, Nariman went to the Binyamin police station, which is on the way to the settlement of Adam, to find out what had happened with Ahed. During Bassem’s interview with Haaretz at noontime Tuesday, he received a call from Nariman’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, informing him that his wife had been taken in for interrogation and was arrested. Later, the Israeli police in the West Bank said she was suspected of incitement and assault.

Ahed’s detention was extended for four days, and on Wednesday a military judge rejected an appeal to release her. Also, the young woman who was with Ahed at the confrontation with the soldiers, Nur Naji Tamimi, was taken from her home and arrested as well.

Loss of land to a settlement

Over the years, a good deal of Nabi Saleh’s land has been allocated to the settlement of Halamish, which expanded and added many homes. At the same time, the Civil Administration does not allow construction in most of the village because it is located in Area C, which is under full Israeli control.

In 2009, when Ahed was 8, Nabi Saleh’s residents began protesting Halamish settlers’ takeover of the spring Ein Qaws. The spring is located on private land belonging to Nabi Saleh and another village, Deir Nizam. Last year, the settlers took over another small spring on village land. During the summer, after members of the Salomon family in Halamish were murdered, the segment of the road connecting Nabi Saleh to villages south was closed and the residents have to obtain a permit to reach their land.

The demonstrations drew worldwide attention to the village, to the Tamimi family and to the IDF’s methods for suppressing the protests. Two residents of the village were shot dead by the IDF during demonstrations.

One of the two was Nariman’s brother, Rushdi, a Palestinian policeman who had not been throwing stones. Nariman has been arrested three times by the IDF, and four years ago a solider shot her in the foot with an air-gun pellet, severely wounding her. Over the past decade, Bassem has been arrested twice and sentenced to prison for periods of 18 months and three months.

In April, the villagers decided to stop the protests after a young man from the town of Salfit was shot and killed while taking part in a solidarity protest for hunger-striking prisoners. Still, Bassem said the army continues to come to the village and provoke the residents, triggering clashes. In recent weeks, the people of Nabi Saleh have been protesting President Donald Trump’s announcement of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.