Eight injured in Jordan stabbing; Jordanians held by Israel return

JERASH, Jordan: A Mexican woman, wounded during a knife attack at the famed archeological site of Jerash in northern Jordan, is pictured at the Jerash Government Hospital yesterday. – AFP

AMMAN: Eight people, including four tourists, were wounded in a knife attack yesterday at the famed archeological site of Jerash in northern Jordan, a security spokesman told AFP. Four tourists – three Mexicans and a Swiss woman – were wounded, along with a Jordanian tour guide and a security officer who tried to stop the assailant, public security directorate spokesman Amer Sartawi said. The attack took place around noon (1000 GMT) at the Roman ruins of Jerash, a popular attraction 50 km from the capital Amman.


HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday cabled Jordanian King Abdullah II, expressing sorrow on the stabbing incident. He expressed deep distress at such a criminal act that targeted the innocent, wishing the injured quick recovery. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables to the monarch.


The Jordanian health ministry confirmed that eight people had been wounded, with Sartawi saying earlier that they had “been transported to hospital for treatment”. He said the assailant had been arrested but did not specify his nationality, noting that the motive was as yet unknown. Jordanian tour guide Zouheir Zreiqat was at the scene and told AFP that the attack happened “just before midday when around 100 foreign tourists” were at the site.


“A bearded man in his twenties wearing black and brandishing a knife started to stab tourists,” according to Zreiqat. He said others started to shout for help and he, along with three other tour guides and three tourists managed to stop the assailant. “We chased him until we could grab him and get him on the ground,” Zreiqat said. “We took the knife from him. He stayed silent, without saying a word until the police arrived and arrested him.”


Meanwhile, two Jordanians, whose detention without charge by Israel led Jordan to recall its ambassador, returned home yesterday in a handover deal that defused a diplomatic crisis, officials said. 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, Abdelrahman Merhi, 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”. – Agencies