Ahed Tamimi will receive award for bravery in SA, says Mandla Mandela

Israel arrests Italians who painted mural of Palestinian teen

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.

At an outdoor news conference near her family home, she spoke against the backdrop of a large model of a slingshot that was "loaded" with a pencil rather than a stone, apparently to highlight education as one of the possible Palestinian tactics.

Ahed Tamimi, 17, became a heroine to Palestinians after the incident last December outside her home in Nabi Saleh, a village which has campaigned for years against land seizures by Israel, leading to confrontations with the Israeli military and Jewish settlers.

Border police said that they arrested two Italians and a Palestinian on Saturday "on suspicion of damaging and vandalising the security fence in the Bethlehem area", a statement said.

Tamimi's supporters see a courageous girl who struck two armed soldiers in frustration after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.

Last Wednesday, one of the men identified himself as Italian street artist Jorit Agoch.

Her release comes at a time when Palestinian hopes for an independent state appear dimmer than ever.

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

But in the hours after her release from prison, Tamimi said Sunday - sitting in the courtyard of her home - that she "knew a long time ago" that she would be arrested for "choosing this path" of opposition to the Israeli occupation.

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"Support Palestinian women prisoners and make efforts for their release", she concluded the message. "I thank everyone who supported me during my arrest".

Tamimi and her mother had been driven early on Sunday from Israel's Sharon prison into the occupied West Bank, authorities said.

From her home, Ahed headed to a visit to the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

She was then taken with her family to a meeting with Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah. Palestinian inmates typically organize study courses to complete high school and even university degrees.

But a somber Tamimi acknowledged that "life in prison was very hard". She said she underwent three lengthy interrogations without a female officer present, in violation of Israel's own rules.

"Ahed Tamimi has been released, but only after serving an unjust sentence based on the ridiculous premise that she posed a threat to armed and heavily protected soldiers", Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International's head of office in Jerusalem, said in a statement. Both Tamimi and her mother were sentenced to eight months in an Israeli military court following a plea deal over the December incident, which the family said took place in their garden in Nabi Saleh.

"They were arrested on the fourth day of carrying out this graffiti painting despite the fact that there is an observation tower of the military there and they were under this observation point from the first day and it's interesting as to why this incident occurred on the fourth day", he said.

The teen's arrest drew global condemnation and put the spotlight on Israel's arrest and imprisonment of Palestinians, especially children. Some 300 minors are now being held, according to Palestinian figures. A Sunday headline in the English-language Times of Israel declared that "soldier-slapper Ahed Tamimi" was released from prison. "Israel should treat harshly those who hit its soldiers", he told The Associated Press. "Lack of deterrence leads to the reality we see now ... we must change that".

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