Shot in the head and arrested, Mohammed Tamimi still in high spirits

#Occupation

The teenager and 10 other Palestinians were arrested and taken away as Israel targets village known for resisting occupation

Mohammed had been in a coma for four days and underwent two operations to remove a rubber-coated steel bullet lodged in the back of his brain (MEE/Tessa Fox)
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Wednesday 28 February 2018 17:42 UTC
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NABI SALEH, Occupied West Bank - At 3am, Mohammed Tamimi woke up to loud screaming and banging on his family's front door.

While still in his bed, his bedroom door flung open and he saw Israeli soldiers coming towards him, with his father in tow.

He knew he was just about to be arrested.

The Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, northwest of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, is well versed in night raids by Israeli forces.

Mohammed, 15, along with ten other young Palestinians from the village, was arrested in the early morning of 26 February. All but two are under 18 years old. 

Fifteen-year-old Mohammed is a special case, having only been released from the hospital at the end of December.

Mohammed had been in a coma for four days and underwent two operations to remove a rubber-coated steel bullet lodged in the back of his brain after being shot at close range by Israeli forces. He has been unable to attend school for at least six months because of the injury.

The day following Mohammed’s release from detention, 27 February, Israel's coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai published an official Facebook post claiming Mohammed’s injury was "self inflicted".

Mordechai wrote: "The boy confessed himself to the police and to [COGAT] that in December when he was [riding] his bicycle and fell from it.”

He went on to say Mohammed had confessed while he was detained that his critical injury was “caused by a blow to the skull from the handle bars”.

Not only are there witnesses of Mohammed being shot by Israeli forces in December, a CT scan of his brain before he underwent surgery clearly shows the bullet lodged in the back of his skull.

Traumatic experience

Mohammed's mother, Emthal Tamimi, was worried sick about her son after his arrest.

"I went crazy," Emthal told Middle East Eye.

She recounted the midmorning hours, saying she was demanding the soldiers leave her son as he was in such a fragile condition. "We were arguing back and forth, I was saying there is no need to take him, he's injured, he needs to take medicine every morning and night," Emthal said.

Emthal, disobeying the soldier's orders to stay inside the house, ran after her son as he was taken to an armoured vehicle. "I followed them and asked to handcuff his hands in front of his body because his shoulder has pain, but they still put them behind," she recalled.

Unlike the other Nabi Saleh youths, Mohammed was released from detention mid-afternoon on the same day.

The family's lawyer was able to locate where the soldiers had taken him and have him released. "He has another surgery on Saturday, so that's why they were able to get him back earlier," Emthal explained.

After being notified that Mohammed would be dropped back to the village within the hour, Emthal waited patiently in her home, surrounded by friends and family. "I hope he will be ok," Emthal said nervously, regarding his medical condition and the rough attitude of the soldiers.

High spirits

After arriving back home, Mohammed was all smiles.

He embraced his mother in the reception room of their house. Emthal wanted to hold onto their hug for a little longer. She clearly didn't want to lose him again.

Mohammed appeared cool and calm, though when he sat down next to his mother, he became overwhelmed and had to hold back tears. Though when he did speak, he adopted a joking demeanor.



Mohammed and his mother embrace after Mohammed's release from detention (MEE/Tessa Fox)

"I think it's just bad luck," he said.

He went on to jokingly say that Israeli forces arrested him because he repositioned his bedroom furniture, as if the Israeli soldiers were entwined with bad feng shui.

"When I changed the position of my bed, they came to arrest me," Mohammed told Middle East Eye. "In the beginning it was like this," he said motioning with his hands, outlining the room, "and they didn't come.

They hit me on my legs, they slap my face and they didn't want to even notice what's going on with my head

- Mohammed Tamimi

"This is the second time. They have arrested me once before after I had also changed the position of my bed," Mohammed said through animated arms and laughter, trying to confirm his theory was correct.

Not knowing how to position the bed in order to avoid arrest, Mohammed said he "will now move [the bed] to another room".

Mohammed was surprised to be released the same day as his arrest, even given his condition. "I was sleeping, they woke me up and told me I could go home," he said.

He is still missing part of his skull, as the surgeons are waiting for the swelling of his brain to go down until they can replace it.

He is not able to be in sunlight and needs to be extra careful of anything touching his head.

The Israeli soldiers disregarded his unprotected brain. "They hit me on my legs, they slap my face and they didn't want to even notice what's going on with my head," Mohammed said.

"I tried my best to protect my head from them because they didn't care. They continued to hit me and kick me."

Sending a message

Mohammed and the rest of his family know he was arrested along with the other Nabi Saleh boys to make an example out of them. Having been released early, he finds himself acting as a messenger from the Israelis to the rest of the community.

"The first message [they gave me] was 'every night we're going to arrest six, until we reach 40," Mohammed recounted what the soldiers told him when he was arrested. 

"The other message is for the elders: they will arrest most of them, whoever speaks out," Mohammed said, adding they will particularly target the leaders of the Nabi Saleh resistance.

They tried to put words in my mouth to confess names of people, because they knew I was scared

- Mohammed Tamimi

"They tried to put words in my mouth to confess names of people, because they knew I was scared of being kicked and them touching my head."

These messages and mass arrests are part of the collective punishment Israel continues to wage against Nabi Saleh, since the village began protesting against Israeli occupation in 2010.

Naji Tamimi, the father of 20-year-old Noor Tamimi who was arrested alongside her cousin Ahed in mid-December, also faced threats during the night raid.

"They asked me questions about resistance in Nabi Saleh, they want me to take it on as my responsibility," Naji told Middle East Eye.

"I told them the problem is the occupation, resistance is another side to the occupation. If you want to end the resistance then you need to end the occupation."

Mohammed's mother, Emthal Tamimi, was worried sick about her son after his arrest.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.