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Israel agrees to free 2 Jordanians held without charges

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Israel and Jordan announced Monday they have agreed to release two 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 al-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.

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, according to a prisoners’ affairs committee that has been assisting her.

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.

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.

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Ben Zion reported from Jerusalem.

Associated Press