Daily Israel Report

Outrage at Jordanian Minister’s Remarks on Freeing Murderer

Students at victims' Beit Shemesh school, send protest to Jordanian Ambassador over minister's suggestion to release murderer of 7 teenagers.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/16/2011, 2:22 AM / Last Update: 2/16/2011, 5:15 AM

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Students in the Amit high school for girls in Beit Shemesh have sent a protest letter to Jordan's Ambassador to Israel, following Monday’s remarks by the Jordanian Justice Minister, who called for the release of a terrorist who had murdered seven students from the same school in 1997 who were on a school trip in israel.

“Now, after 14 years, the Minister of Justice of your country gets up and calls a murderer a hero and supports his freedom,” the girls wrote in their letter. “What is heroic about a soldier firing towards innocent girls who are in the midst of a school trip?”

“If this is the position of the man in charge of the justice system and laws in your country, what does the justice system in Jordan look like?” continue the girls. “We live, teach, and study every day with those seven girls in our hearts. The sisters of the murdered girls study with us at school. If it were not for that criminal, whom your justice minister wants to release, these girls would probably be today mothers to small children. Justice and morality require that such a man remain in jail and not see the light of day.”

The girls note in their letter, which was signed by school principal Rabbi Eran Daum as well as staff members, that following the murder, Jordan’s then King Hussein came to Beit Shemesh to visit the bereaved families and offer his condolences. “But unlike King Hussein’s gestures, today the Minister of Justice sees the same killer as a hero,” they write. “We, the students in the Amit school in Beit Shemesh, a school named after those seven murdered students, expect a condemnation from the government and the King and call on you not to even consider releasing the murderer.”

The letter comes after Jordan's Justice Minister, Hussein Mjali, joined demonstrators outside his own office on Monday who were demanding the release of the murderer, Ahmed Daqamseh.

Daqamseh was a soldier in the Jordanian army when he opened fire on a group of students who were visiting the “peace island” of Naharayim on March 13, 1997, as part of a class trip. Naharayim is located right near the Jordanian border, and Daqamseh opened fire on the girls from the Jordanian side. He killed seven of the students, and wounded six others. Daqamseh was sentenced by a Jordanian military court to life in prison.

“Releasing the murderer would be a heinous crime”
Rosa Himi, an educator at the Amit high school who is also a survivor of the shooting attack in 1997, also expressed her shock on Tuesday at the justice minister's remarks.

“It happened just fourteen years ago during the month of Adar,” Himi told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website. “I was a witness to the incident from the moment the Jordanian soldier started shooting down from the tower. I saw him coming down, replacing his cartridge, and firing. We lay down on the ground and said Shema Israel. Meanwhile he came up the slope and continued firing. Suddenly there was silence. I stuck my head out, I exchanged glances with him, I saw that his weapon was jammed, and then he threw down the weapon and fled.”

Himi said that the trauma from the incident has accompanied her for years. “It was a picture I could not get out of my head, the picture of cold-blooded murder,” she said. “The Jordanians invited me to testify at the trial, we saw the crowds burning the Israeli flag, and looked at the terrorist in the eye. He was pleased and was dancing. The Jordanians made us feel as though they identify with us and even King Hussein met with us.”

She said that she has remained in close contact with the bereaved families over the years. “Some of the survivors of the attack are now mothers to children. They all grew up very quickly back then because of the incident.”

Finally, Himi addressed the Jordanian minister’s remarks and said: “It was clear to us all these years that we cannot trust the Jordanians, and that one day they would release the terrorist. Releasing him would be a heinous crime.”

The Jordanian government has responded that it has no plans to free the terrorist.