After 41 days on hunger strike and more than two months under administrative detention in Israeli prison, 24-year-old Heba al-Labadi was released back to her home in Jordan on Wednesday to much fanfare from the Jordanian public.
Al-Labadi, a Palestinian-Jordanian national, was arrested by Israeli forces on August 20th at the Allenby Bridge border crossing while traveling with her mother. The pair were on their way to attend a family wedding in the West Bank when she was detained for unknown reasons.
Israeli authorities later sentenced her to administrative detention, without charge or trial, citing “security concerns.” Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that al-Labadi’s detention was a result of her meeting with Hezbollah-affiliated individuals during a trip to Lebanon.
Al-Labadi’s return to Amman was received with much fanfare, as well wishers, family and friends, and dozens of journalists awaited her arrival at the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge between Israel and Jordan — the same place she had been arrested months before.
A second Jordanian national of Palestinian descent, 29-year-old Abdulrahman Merei, was also returned back to Jordan on Wednesday. Merei, like al-Labadi, was arrested at the Allenby Bridge in September and held in administrative detention in prison.
“Thanks to his majesty, the king. Thanks to the Foreign Ministry. Thanks to the Jordanian people,” al-Labadi told a crowd of reporters at the bridge, smiling and surrounded by her parents.
“Praise God. I am very happy. Without your support, I would not have achieved my freedom,” she said. Al-Labadi was transported out of the border in an ambulance.
Al-Lebadi’s detention and subsequent hunger strike drew international intention, and sparked protests across cities in Palestine as reports surfaced that she was held in isolation, tortured and harassed by Israeli prison authorities.
Tensions between Israel and Jordan escalated last week when Jordan announced it would be recalling its ambassador Ghassan Al-Majali from Israel in protest of al-Labadi and Merei’s detention.
“We hold the Israeli government responsible for the lives of our citizens whose health conditions have severely deteriorated in illegal arbitrary detention,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said at the time.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s released a statement on the release of the two prisoners, saying “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.”