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South African surgeons bring sunshine back to Palestinian teen’s life

“I want to be able to go outside. I am not allowed to stay in the sun too much. And I want to be able to run with my friends.

These simple pleasures are what 15-year old Palestinian teenager, Muhammed Tamimi, longs for, after he was shot in the head at close range with a rubber-coated, metal bullet by Israeli soldiers during a nightly raid on the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in December last year.

The bullet went through Tamimi’s nose and lodged in his brain. A large part of his skull had to be removed, causing his left eye to sink. As a result, he was unable to move his eye in all directions, and couldn’t open his mouth fully. Israeli authorities claimed the teen sustained the injuries by falling off his bicycle.

South African doctors are now working on bringing some sunshine back into Tamimi’s life. Headed by award-winning South African surgeon, Ridwaan Mia, the team performed a five and a half hour operation on Tamimi in Johannesburg on Sunday – reconstructing a large part of his eye and mouth area.

Mia says the procedure went well, and is happy with the progress that Tamimi is making. The surgeon – who is best known for his ground-breaking work on young burn victim, Pippie Kruger – is confident that Tamimi will regain full use of his left eye.

Durban-based NGO, Shamsaan, decided to assist Tamimi after seeing his post on Facebook, asking for help to have reconstructive surgery.

On Monday, Tamimi received a special visitor. Mandla Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, commended all those involved in Tamimi’s operation. “They are proud examples of South Africans who give real expression to Madiba’s spirit of sacrifice and caring for one’s fellow man especially the most vulnerable amongst us,” he said.

Tamimi was in high spirits during Mandela’s visit and told him how excited he was to see his grandfather’s statues in Ramallah and Johannesburg. Once he has recovered fully, Mandla Mandela promised to take Tamimi to see Madiba’s statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Footage of Muhammed Tamimi’s cousin, Ahed Tamimi, responding to his brutal shooting by slapping an armed soldier who entered the family’s village – went viral in December.

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