A teenage Palestinian protester has been released from an Israeli prison after serving her eight-month sentence.
Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old who was jailed for slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers, was greeted with banners, cheers and Palestinian flags as she entered her home village of Nabi Saleh.
The initial incident which led to Ahed’s arrest was filmed by her mother and posted on Facebook, where it went viral.
For many, Ahed instantly turned into a symbol of resistance and with her unruly mop of curly hair, the Palestinian teen quickly became a local hero and an internationally recognisable figure.
Ahed allegedly slapped the two armed soldiers after she learned that Israeli troops had wounded her 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.
“The resistance continues until the occupation is removed,” Ahed said upon her return. “All the female prisoners are steadfast. I salute everyone who supported me and my case.”
From her home, Ahed then headed to visit the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Her father, Bassem Tamimi, said he expected her to take a lead in the struggle against Israeli occupation but that she was also weighing college options.
In Israel, however, she is seen by many as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence policy.
Israel has treated her actions as a criminal offence, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement. Her eight-month sentence was the result of a plea deal.
Since 2009, residents of Nabi Saleh have staged regular anti-occupation protests that often ended with stone-throwing clashes. Ahed has participated in such marches from a young age, and has had several highly publicised run-ins with soldiers.
One photo shows the then 12-year-old raising a clenched fist towards a soldier towering over her.
In a sign of her popularity, a pair of Italian artists painted a large mural of her on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier ahead of her release.
Israeli police said they were caught in the act along with another Palestinian and arrested for vandalism.
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 criticised by international rights groups. Some 300 minors are currently being held, according to Palestinian figures.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians are increasingly disillusioned about efforts to establish a state in those territories, after more than two decades of failed negotiations with Israel.
Agencies contributed to this report
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