Israel puts Jordanians on trial for crossing border fence to join Jerusalem protests

Khalifa al-Anouz and Musab al-Dajeh, two Jordanian citizens from Smma town near the city of Irbid, have been detained in an Israeli jail (Screengrab)

Mustafa Abu Sneineh

Middle East Eye  /  June 1, 2021

Khalifa al-Anouz and Musab al-Dajeh walked more than 30km from their hometown before being arrested by Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley.

An Israeli court extended on Monday the detention of two Jordanian citizens who crossed a border fence with Israel to take part in protests in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in May.

Khalifa al-Anouz and Musab al-Dajeh walked more than 30km from their hometown in Smma, near the northern city of Irbid, before being arrested on 18 May by Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley.

The two men started their day-and-a-half journey on the evening of 16 May, and crossed groves near the Jordan River.

They were arrested in the area between Bisan town, known also as Beit Shean, and Tiberias in Galilee, in the north of Israel.

Khaled Mahajneh, the legal representative of Anouz and Dajeh, said that Israeli forces blocked their journey when they were spotted wearing the traditional Jordanian keffiyeh and dishdasha near an Israeli town.

They are currently being detained at Jalameh prison near the city of Haifa and face trial on charges of entering Israel “illegally without visa permit” and attempting to carry out a “terrorist act”, as one of them had a knife in a bag.

On Monday, Mahajneh said that he was allowed only once to visit the two men in the prison and that they had been “suffering ill-treatment”, including being left sitting in the sun for almost seven hours on the day they were arrested.

“Since the first day of their arrest on 16 May they were investigated by Israeli intelligence, which practiced the most horrific practices against them, especially psychological pressure and verbal abuse,” Mahajneh told the media outside the court in Nazareth.

“They were handcuffed for extended periods during the investigation, causing one of them to become sick.”

Jordanians have launched a campaign calling on officials to secure the release of Anouz and Dajeh. Dhaifallah al-Fayez, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that an official at Jordan’s embassy in Tel Aviv had visited the two detainees.

“The Ministry [of Foreign Affairs] will continue to work for their release, and the embassy in Tel Aviv will continue to visit and check on them,” Fayez said.

Dajeh’s family said in a statement that they felt “pride” that Musab had entered “the occupied Palestinian territories to join his brothers, the defenders of Palestine… and support the Palestinian cause and be a human shield and get martyrdom while defending the Palestinian cause”.

Solidarity protests

In May, hundreds of Jordanians travelled in buses to protest near the border fence with Israel in solidarity with Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, who faced forcible eviction by the Israeli authorities.

Thousands of Jordanians have also demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman against the Israeli storming of al-Aqsa Mosque in the month of Ramadan and the subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which began on 10 May.

Jordanian police had placed roadblocks leading to the fortified Israeli embassy in Amman. Protesters chanted “Oh government and parliament, we don’t want condemnation and statements”, and “revenge… revenge… Oh, Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv!” among other chants.

The full house of Jordanian MPs had signed a letter calling the government to expel the Israeli ambassador in Amman and withdraw the Jordanian ambassador from Tel Aviv.

During the armed confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza, Israel announced that it had intercepted and shot down a drone near Wadi al-Ayoun in the Jordan valley, without elaborating on details.

Israel and Jordan’s relationship had hit a low point in April when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed the approval of a water supply to Jordan as provided under the 1994 Wadi Araba peace agreement.

Jordan shares a 335km-long border with Israel and the occupied West Bank. In the 1960s, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerilla fighters operated mainly in the Jordan Valley, launching armed attacks on Israeli settlements before Jordan forced the PLO to move its headquarters to Lebanon in the early 1970s, after violent clashes with Jordanian forces.

Since then, Jordan has secured its border with Israel, and its role is still valued by Israel’s military establishment more than the political apparatus.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, there are 22 prisoners, including Dajeh and Anouz, who hold Jordanian citizenship in Israeli jails.

In 2019, there were almost 4,400,000 Palestinians living in Jordan, a country with an almost 10 million-strong population. 

Mustafa Abu Sneineh – journalist, poet and staff writer at Middle East Eye