Jordan, Israel reach deal to free 2 Jordanian detainees

Israeli activists protest in solidarity with Jordanian Heba Al-Labadi, who is currently in Israeli custody and has been on hunger strike. (AFP)
Updated 04 November 2019

Jordan, Israel reach deal to free 2 Jordanian detainees

  • Jordan's foreign minister said Heba Al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri will return to Jordan before the end of the week

AMMAN: Israel and Jordan announced Monday they have agreed to release two young Jordanians held by Israel without charges for over two months, including one woman suffering serious health problems after going on a monthlong hunger strike.
The joint announcements marked a breakthrough in a case that has further soured already chilly relations between the neighboring countries, shortly after the 25th anniversary of their peace deal passed with little fanfare last month.
Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi wrote on Twitter that Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri will return to Jordan "before the end of the week." He gave no further details.
Israel arrested Labadi on Aug. 20 and Miri on Sept. 2 as they entered the West Bank from Jordan through an Israeli-controlled crossing.
They are being held in administrative detention, an Israeli policy that allows for open-ended detentions without filing charges against people suspected of security offenses.
Labadi, 32, was hospitalized last week due to her deteriorating condition after over a month on hunger strike in protest against her detention.
Israel's Shin Bet security service has said Labadi was detained "because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations" but gave no further details.
Miri, 29, has been battling cancer since 2010, and he requires frequent medical checkups.
Jordan's Foreign Ministry said King Abdullah II had ordered the government "to take all necessary steps" to secure their release, and that an agreement had been reached "after lengthy discussions, intensive contacts and moves."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the deal had been reached between the head of Shin Bet and his Jordanian counterpart. As part of the deal, it said Jordan would return its ambassador to Israel, a week after Amman recalled its envoy to protest the detentions.
"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," it said.
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.


Turkey raises migrant pressure on EU over Syria conflict

Updated 29 February 2020

Turkey raises migrant pressure on EU over Syria conflict

  • Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the Idlib region on Thursday
  • Erdogan may travel next week to Moscow for talks

PAZARKULE: Turkey vowed the Syrian regime will “pay a price” for dozens of dead Turkish soldiers and raised pressure on the EU over the conflict by threatening to let thousands of migrants enter the bloc.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing forces in the Syria conflict, held high-level talks to try to defuse tensions that have sparked fears of a broader war and a new migration crisis for Europe.
Greek police clashed on Saturday with thousands of migrants who were already gathering on the border to try to enter Europe.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday vowed to allow refugees to travel on to Europe from Turkey which he said can no longer handle new waves of people fleeing war-torn Syria. It already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
The comments were his first after Turkish 34 troops were killed since Thursday in the northern Syria province of Idlib where Moscow-backed Syrian regime forces are battling to retake the last rebel holdout area.
“What did we do yesterday (Friday)? We opened the doors,” Erdogan said in Istanbul. “We will not close those doors ...Why? Because the European Union should keep its promises.”
He was referring to a 2016 deal with the European Union to stop refugee flows in exchange for billions of euros in aid.
In Athens, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an emergency meeting to discuss tensions on the border with Turkey.
The Turkish leader said 18,000 migrants have amassed on the Turkish borders with Europe since Friday, adding that the number could reach as many as 30,000 on Saturday.
Thousands of migrants who remained stuck on the Turkish-Greek border were in skirmishes with Greek police on Saturday who fired tear gas to push them back, according to AFP photographer in the western province of Edirne.
The migrants massed at the Pazarkule border crossing responded by hurling stones at the police.
In 2015, Greece became the main EU entry point for one million migrants, most of them refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. The pressure to cope with the influx split the European Union.
“Greece yesterday came under an organized, mass, illegal attack... a violation of our borders and endured it,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Saturday after the emergency meeting with Mitsotakis.
“We averted more than 4,000 attempts of illegal entrance to our land borders.”
A Greek police source said security forces fired tear gas Saturday morning against migrants massing on the Turkish side because the migrants had set fires and opened holes in the border fences.
Armed policemen and soldiers are patrolling the Evros river shores — a common crossing point — and are warning with loudspeakers not to enter Greek territory.
Greek authorities were also using drones to monitor the migrants moves.
Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Skai television the situation was under control
“I believe that the borders have been protected,” he said.
According to Hellenic Coast Guard, from early Friday to early Saturday 180 migrants reached the islands of Eastern Aegean, Lesbos and Samos in sea crossings.
The UN said nearly a million people — half of them children — have been displaced in the bitter cold by the fighting in northwest Syria since December.
Turkey said that Turkish forces destroyed a “chemical warfare facility,” just south of Aleppo, in retaliation its soldiers were killed by Syrian regime fire in Idlib.
“As of last night, we blew up a depot housing seven chemical products,” Erdogan said. “We would not want things to reach this point but as they force us to do this, they will pay a price.”
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources inside the war-torn country, said that Turkey instead hit a military airport in eastern Aleppo, where the monitoring group says there are no chemical weapons.
Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the Idlib on Thursday, the biggest Turkish military loss on the battlefield in recent years. A 34th Turkish soldier has since died.
The latest incident has raised further tensions between Ankara and Moscow, whose relationship has been tested by violations of a 2018 deal to prevent a regime offensive on Idlib.
As part of the agreement, Ankara set up 12 observation posts in the province but Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces — backed by Russian air power — have pressed on with a relentless campaign to take back the remaining chunks of the territory.
On Friday, Erdogan spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in a bid to scale down the tensions, with the Kremlin saying the two expressed “serious concern” about the situation.
Erdogan may travel next week to Moscow for talks, according to the Kremlin.
Despite being on opposite ends of the war, Turkey, which backs several rebel groups in Syria, and key regime ally Russia are trying to find a political solution.
The United States and the United Nations have called for an end to the Syrian offensive in Idlib and the deadly flare-up raising fresh concerns for civilians caught up in the escalation of the eight-year civil war.