Dima al-Wawi had been convicted of attempted manslaughter by Israeli authorities after being caught with a concealed knife
Palestinian 12-year-old Dima al-Wawi with her mother Sabha al-Wawi, right, and her father Ismail al-Wawi
A 12-year-old Palestinian girl, imprisoned by Israel after she confessed to planning a stabbing attack on Israelis in a West Bank settlement, returned home on Sunday when she was freed early after an appeal.
Dima al-Wawi was greeted by about 80 relatives at her family’s house in Halhoul, a village near Hebron, a West Bank city that has been a focal point of violence. Relatives decorated the house with balloons and posters. Banners by the Islamic militant group Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas adorned the walls.
“I am happy to be out. Prison is bad,” al-Wawi told Associated Press. “During my time in prison, I missed my classmates and my friends and family.”
According to court documents provided by the military, al-Wawi approached the West Bank settlement of Carmei Tsur on 9 February with a knife hidden under a shirt. A security guard ordered her to halt and a resident instructed her to lie on the ground and told her to give up the knife, which she did.
An amateur video clip shown on Israeli TV showed the resident asking the girl, who was wearing her school uniform, whether she had come to kill Jews, and she said yes. She later pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter in a plea bargain and was sentenced to four and a half months in prison.
Al-Wawi is believed to be the youngest female Palestinian sent to prison.
Her case put Israel’s military justice system under the spotlight. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 six-day war and Palestinian residents they are subject to a system of military law that can sentence suspects as young as 12 to prison. By contrast, Israeli settlers in the West Bank, as well as Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, are subject to Israeli civil law, which does not allow anyone under 14 to go to prison.
The incident came amid seven months of violence in which Palestinians killed 28 Israelis and two Americans in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in Israel and the West Bank. At least 190 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire.