Israel has freed 12-year-old Palestinian Dima al-Wawi, more than two months after jailing her for an attempted stabbing attack, and she was warmly welcomed back in her West Bank town. She is the youngest Palestinian girl ever imprisoned.
Wawi was handed over to Palestinian authorities at Tulkarem crossing point into the northern West Bank and she then travelled to her family home near Hebron in the south of the territory, where she was greeted by the city’s governor and dozens of well-wishers with hugs, tears, songs, flags and speeches.
She was arrested, wearing her school uniform, on February 9 at the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank and found to be carrying a knife. Under a plea bargain with Israeli military prosecutors, Wawi pleaded guilty to attempted murder and possession of a knife and was sentenced to four months in an Israeli prison and a further six-week suspended sentence.
Wawi’s defence team had asked the military court for her early release and it agreed. According to Israeli military law, minors from age 12 can be charged, uniquely in the world according to United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.
Israel is currently holding about 450 Palestinian minors, around 100 of whom are under 16.