Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi Freed From Israeli Prison in Hostage Exchange

The prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi and more than two dozen other women and children were released from Israeli prisons early Thursday, Israeli and Palestinian authorities said, in the latest exchange for hostages held in Gaza.

The Israeli military arrested Ms. Tamimi, 22, in a predawn raid on Nov. 6 on suspicion of inciting violence and calling for terrorist activity, but did not bring charges against her for the nearly three weeks she was jailed in the Damon Prison, near Haifa, Israel.

According to her lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, Ms. Tamimi was beaten during her arrest and after she was transferred, in violation of international law, to the prison in Israel from the occupied West Bank.

The military had moved on Sunday to keep Ms. Tamimi imprisoned under administrative detention, which would have allowed it to hold her indefinitely without charge or trial. But her name later appeared on the Israeli government’s list of Palestinian prisoners and detainees approved for potential release in the hostage exchange. Her father, the longtime protest leader Bassem Tamimi, is also imprisoned without charge.

Ms. Tamimi’s mother, Nariman Tamimi, said on Tuesday that her joy over the prospect of her daughter’s release was tempered by repeated threats of violence made against the family by Israeli settlers and by occupation forces, who have banned any celebrations and fired tear gas to disperse crowds of Palestinians waiting to reunite with their loved ones and neighbors.

The sheer number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of the war has also left an indelible mark, Nariman Tamimi said. Health authorities in Gaza have said that more than 13,000 people had been killed in the enclave during the war, and that thousands more are believed to be trapped under the rubble.

“She would be coming back after the death of 17,000 people. You understand?” Nariman Tamimi said. “My daughter would return to my lap, but there are a thousand mothers who have lost their children and a thousand families that have perished.”

“I wish there didn’t have to be all this bloodshed for my daughter to be released,” she added. “The reality is that she shouldn’t have been imprisoned.”

Ms. Tamimi’s arrest was one of thousands carried out by Israeli forces since Oct. 7 in a bloody crackdown on the occupied West Bank for what they have said are counterterrorism measures. The precise number of arrests there is disputed; the Israeli military has reported more than 2,000, but the Palestinian Authority’s commission for prisoner affairs reports nearly 3,300.

Israeli forces have also killed at least 225 Palestinians in the West Bank since the crackdown began, making 2023 the deadliest year for Palestinians there since 2005, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian agency.

A total of 30 Palestinians, including more than a dozen children, were released early Thursday. Among them was Suhair al-Barghouti, a 64-year-old woman who was arrested during a raid in October and placed in administrative detention, where she has been denied access to medication for her health issues, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, a nongovernmental rights group.

Ms. al-Barghouti hails from a well-known family of Palestinian resistance figures. Her husband, Omar al-Barghouti, was one of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners and spent roughly three decades behind bars, much of it under administrative detention, before his death in 2021.

The couple’s sons have also spent years in Israeli detention, and one, Saleh al-Barghouti, was shot and killed by Israeli occupation forces in 2018 after he was accused of opening fire on Israeli settlers. Israel bulldozed their family home near Ramallah in 2019, according to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s news agency.

Sara Aridi contributed reporting.