Israel releases Jordanian citizens

Woman embraces man and woman

Hiba al-Labadi embraces her family shortly after her release from Israeli prison on 6 November, at the Allenby Bridge crossing separating the occupied West Bank and Jordan. (via Twitter)

Israel released on Wednesday Jordanian citizens Hiba al-Labadi and Abdulrahman Mirie after detaining them without charge or trial for more than two months.

Al-Labadi had mounted a prolonged hunger strike to protest her imprisonment.

The detention of al-Labadi, 32, and Mirie, 28, caused tensions between the two countries and prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

The ambassador, Ghassan Majali, is set to return to his post in coming days, after the two countries reached an agreement for Israel to hand the pair to Jordanian authorities, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced.

Al-Labadi and Mirie received a warm welcome from family, Jordanian officials and press at the Allenby Bridge separating the occupied West Bank from Jordan on Wednesday:

They were both taken for medical checkups following their release:

The return of al-Labadi and Mirie received wide coverage in Jordan and was broadcast live.

Jordanians had protested their detention near the prime ministry in Amman on Sunday:

Protesters demanded the cancellation of the Israel-Jordan gas deal as well as the peace treaty between the two countries.

Relieving tensions

On Monday, Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi announced that the pair would be back in Jordan before the end of the week following the agreement with Israel.

Nadav Argaman, head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency, and Meir Ben Shabbat, Israel’s National Security Council chief, were reportedly behind the agreement.

“Israel views the relationship between Jordan and Israel as a cornerstone of regional stability and will continue to act to ensure the region’s security,” Netanyahu’s office stated.

Al-Labadi suspended her 42-day hunger strike shortly after Safadi’s announcement. She was hospitalized several times during the last week of her strike.

She was arrested on 20 August and Abdulrahman was arrested on 2 September, both at the Allenby Bridge on their way to attend relatives’ weddings in the occupied West Bank.

Their release comes days after the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Wadi Araba peace treaty, formally normalizing relations between Israel and Jordan despite there being no restoration of Palestinian rights or an end to Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Return of territories

Meanwhile, Israel is set to return control in coming days of al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr to Jordan, territories that had been leased to Israel under the treaty.

Last October, King Abdullah announced that Jordan would not renew the relevant provisions in its 1994 treaty.

Al-Baqoura, an area in northwest Jordan where the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers meet, and al-Ghamr, an area south of the Dead Sea, were leased to Israel for 25 years.

Social media users expressed concern that the agreement that led to the release of the prisoners would affect the return of the territories.

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