Israel to Expel Italian Artists Over Mural of Teen Who Slapped IDF Soldiers

Italian artist Jorit Agoch paints a mural depicting jailed Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi on Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on July 25,2018. - Tamimi, was charged earlier this year after a viral video showed her hitting two soldiers in the occupied West Bank. (Photo …
MUSA AL SHAER/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV – Israeli authorities on Sunday threatened to expel two Italian artists from the country over a giant mural they painted of recently imprisoned Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi on the security fence in the West Bank.

The two had their visas rescinded and were told they would face expulsion if they do not leave of their own volition.

Police arrested them on Sunday on “suspicion of vandalizing and damaging the security fence in the Bethlehem area” before transferring them to the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration.

A Palestinian woman walks past a mural painted on Israel’s controversial separation barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on July 29, 2018, drawn by Italian artist Jorit Agoch, depicting Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, next to other graffiti showing Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

The two were masked as they “illegally drew on the wall,” border police said in a separate statement.

“When border policemen took action to arrest them, they tried to escape in their car, which was stopped by the forces,” the statement continued.

The immigration authority subsequently chose to cancel “their temporary visas for Israel and allow them to leave the country within 72 hours,” a police statement said.

“If they fail to comply they will be expelled,” police added.

Police also freed a Palestinian who had been arrested along with the Italians since he was not strongly associated with their activities, the statement said.

Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said in a statement Sunday night he had “learned with relief … (that) the two Italian citizens arrested in Israel will quickly be able to return to Italy.”

Tamimi, who was jailed for seven months along with her mother for slapping Israeli soldiers in an incident captured on video, was released Sunday.

Footage of the episode quickly went viral and Tamimi, 17, has since become an icon of Palestinian anti-Israel activism.

Tamimi thanked hundreds of well-wishers in Nabi Saleh who had come to greet her after her release on Sunday, declaring: “The resistance is ongoing.”

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