KING HUSSEIN BRIDGE, Jordan (AP) — Israeli authorities on Wednesday released two Jordanian citizens who’d been detained for two months and returned them to Jordan, easing a standoff that has soured relations between the countries just as they marked a chilly 25th anniversary of their historic peace deal.
Israel and Jordan announced earlier this week that the two Jordanians held without charges would be freed and Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri crossed the King Hussein Bridge back into Jordan on Wednesday. Last week, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations to protest the detentions. It further strained the tense ties between the two neighbors, who signed a peace treaty 25 years ago. As part of the arrangement, Israel says Jordan will return its ambassador to Israel.
Israel arrested al-Labadi on Aug. 20 and Miri on Sept. 2 as they entered the West Bank from Jordan through an Israeli-controlled crossing. They were held in administrative detention, which allows for open-ended detentions without filing charges against people suspected of security offenses.
“I didn’t know the charges, it was a hard feeling because I didn’t know the reason why I was there,” al-Labadi said at the border crossing. “They were hitting the table. They told me you are at the intelligence office now. I wasn’t aware of what was going on.”
Al-Labadi, 32, was hospitalized last week due to her deteriorating condition after over a month on hunger strike in protest against her detention. She ended her hunger strike following the announcements about her release. Israel’s Shin Bet security service has said al-Labadi was detained “because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations” but gave no further details.
She said Israeli authorities were investigating her over a visit made to Lebanon, and the reason for her visit to the West Bank, which she says was to attend a wedding party.
Miri, 29, has been battling cancer since 2010, and he requires frequent medical checkups.
The two countries quietly marked the anniversary of their landmark peace deal. Signed on Oct. 26, 1994, it was only the second peace deal between Israel and an Arab country, following Egypt.
Despite close security cooperation, relations between Israel and Jordan have been strained. That’s due to the prolonged deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as well as Israeli policies in east Jerusalem, where Jordan has custodial rights over Muslim holy sites.
Last year, Jordan chose not to renew a clause of the peace treaty that granted Israel use of two enclaves inside Jordanian territory.
Efforts by Israel to negotiate an extension of the lease from Jordan have so far not succeeded, and Jordan is to regain full control of the areas next week.