Officials say Jordan not linking 2 detained citizens to arrested Israeli
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Officials say Jordan not linking 2 detained citizens to arrested Israeli

Foreign Ministry sources say that contrary to Amman official’s suggestion, government hasn’t indicated that man who illegally crossed border is being held as a bargaining chip

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens to Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, as they meet at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan on January 16, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Yousef Allan, Jordanian Royal Palace)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens to Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, as they meet at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan on January 16, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Yousef Allan, Jordanian Royal Palace)

Israeli officials on Wednesday said Jordan has not given any indication that the recent detention of an Israeli citizen who illegally crossed the border is connected in any way to the issue of two Jordanians held in Israeli custody, contrary to the assertion by a senior official in Amman.

Israel detained Heba al-Labadi, 32, and Abdul Rahman Miri, 29, at the Allenby crossing in the Jordan Valley on August 20 and September 2, respectively. Both of them are being held under administrative detention orders, which allow Israel to hold certain suspects for months at a time without formal charges. Authorities say the measure is used when detailing the charges publicly could endanger the country’s security and expose intelligence assets.

On Tuesday evening, Jordan announced it was recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv to protest the pair’s ongoing detention.

Later that evening, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufyan Qudah suggested that the Hashemite kingdom use an Israeli citizen detained after crossing the border as a bargaining chip to secure the release of the two Jordanians.

Heba al-Labadi in an undated photo (Courtesy)

Sources in Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said the Israeli man who crossed the border in the north into Jordan was attempting to evade Israeli authorities since he is wanted for drug offenses. They added that such criminal cases weren’t rare, and were usually dealt with within days through diplomatic and security channels.

The officials assessed that Amman recalling its ambassador from Israel was meant to send the message to Jordanians that it is upping the pressure on Jerusalem, after many used the case of Labadi and Miri to fuel anti-government protests.

Also on Wednesday, MK Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Democratic Camp party filed an urgent query to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, asking him to explain the reason for Labadi’s and Miri’s administrative detention.

The saga is a further indication of the tense state of relations between Israel and Jordan, which marked the 25th anniversary of the signing their landmark peace agreement last weekend.

Israeli activists protest in solidarity with Jordanian Heba al-Labadi (portrait), who is currently in Israeli custody and has been on hunger strike, outside Ofer Prison during her court hearing in the West Bank on October 28, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Earlier in October, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said that Labadi, who is of Palestinian descent, was being held “because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations,” without elaborating.

The Haaretz daily on Monday quoted Raslan Mahajna, Labadi’s lawyer, as saying that she is suspected of “meeting with persons identified” with the Hezbollah terror group in Beirut in trips in 2018 and 2019. According to the newspaper, Mahajna said that Labadi met once with an employee of the Hezbollah-owned al-Nour radio station, while visiting her sister in the Lebanese capital.

Labadi has been on a hunger strike for 37 days. Her health has recently deteriorated and she has been to a hospital in Haifa multiple times in the past week. Miri has suffered from cancer since 2010 and needs regular medical checkups, according to the PA Prisoners Affairs Commission.

An Israeli military court on Tuesday refused an appeal to release Miri.

Times of Israel staff, Adam Rasgon and AP contributed to this report.

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