Jordan recalls envoy to Israel to protest detention of two citizens

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan has recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest over Israel’s refusal to release two citizens the kingdom says have been illegally detained for months without charge, the Jordanian foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister, said in a tweet he held the Israeli government responsible for the lives of Hiba Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri, adding that their health had severely deteriorated. He said that recalling the envoy was a first step, but did not elaborate.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, said both detainees were suspected of security offences, without being more specific.

Labadi, 24, was arrested in August after crossing to the occupied West Bank to attend a family wedding and so far has not been indicted. She subsequently went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized after her health deteriorated.

Safadi said Israel’s administrative detention of both citizens was illegal and vowed his country would take “all necessary legal and diplomatic measures” to ensure their safe return home.

Speaking on Israeli Army Radio, Hotovely said Israel was within its rights to detain the pair.

“If someone commits a security offense, it is our duty as a state to arrest him and to clarify matters,” she said.

Israel mainly uses administrative detention against Palestinians suspected of anti-Israeli activities.

It says the measure, which human rights groups have condemned, is aimed at preventing further violence in cases where there is insufficient evidence to prosecute or where court proceedings could expose the identity of secret informants.

Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel is unpopular among many in the kingdom, where pro-Palestinian sentiment is widespread. Many of Jordan’s 7 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Pravin Char