Two Jordanians detained by Israel return home after handover deal

AMMAN (Reuters) - Two Jordanians, whose detention without charge by Israel led Jordan to recall its ambassador, returned home on Wednesday in a handover deal that defused a diplomatic crisis, officials said.

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Hiba Labadi, 24, was arrested in August after crossing into the occupied West Bank to attend a family wedding. She subsequently went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized after her health deteriorated.

Separately, Abdul Rahman Miri, 29, was arrested in September after he also entered the West Bank to visit relatives

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday the two would return to Jordan “before the end of the week” without saying how their release had been secured.

Safadi however said King Abdullah had ordered the government to do everything necessary to bring them back “whatever that may cost”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the handover was agreed after talks between Israeli and Jordanian security chiefs. It said Jordan’s ambassador would return to his post “in the coming days”.

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

Diplomats say the deal defused a crisis following Safadi’s warning that Jordan would take further diplomatic measures if Israel did not release the two detainees, who he said were illegally held without charge.

Jordanians, many of whom are of Palestinian origin, oppose normalization of relations with Israel, despite a 1994 peace treaty.

In announcing the decision to release Labadi and Miri, Israel said it viewed its relations with Jordan as “a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East”.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Giles Elgood