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Jordanian jailed for killing Israelis on hunger strike

March 15, 2014 8:49 P.M. (Updated: March 16, 2014 10:15 A.M.)
AMMAN (AFP) -- A Jordanian soldier serving a life sentence for murdering Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 is on a hunger strike to demand his release following the killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli soldiers, his son said Saturday.

"My father started a hunger strike on Friday. He said he demands the government release him from jail after the Israelis killed Jordanian judge Raed Zeiter," Ahmad Dakamseh's son Seif told AFP.

"He is also refusing to take medicine for his high blood pressure and diabetes."

Zeiter was shot dead earlier this week by Israeli forces at the Allenby Bridge border crossing. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers had scuffled with Zeiter after he delayed in returning to his bus, and an Israeli soldier shot him three times in the chest after Zeiter pushed him.

Israel, however, said that Zeiter had attacked the soldiers and tried to steal one of their weapons. It expressed regret over the shooting but stopped short of apologizing.

The killing set off a diplomatic row between the two countries, and on Friday around 1,000 protesters demonstrated near the Israeli embassy in Amman, demanding the scrapping of the 1994 peace treaty.

On Wednesday, Jordanian MPs demanded the government free Dakamseh, expel the Israeli envoy in Amman and recall the Jordanian ambassador in Israel.

They gave the government until Tuesday to meet their demands, failing which they threatened a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur, who has said Israel is "completely responsible" for the "hideous" shooting and demanded an apology.

"My father said he will not end his hunger strike until the government meets the demands of parliament as well as the public concerning the martyrdom of judge Zeiter," Seif Dakamseh said.

"He told us that his freedom will come from the will of people and not the government."

Ahmad Dakamseh opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls as they visited Baqura, a scenic peninsula on the Jordan River near the Israeli border.

He killed seven of the girls and wounded five more, as well as a teacher, and was sentenced to life in prison.

The motives of Dakamseh, who was 30 at the time and a married father of three, were never clear.

King Hussein cut short a visit to Europe and rushed home to condemn the attack. He later traveled to Israel to offer his condolences to the families of the murdered schoolgirls. Jordan also paid compensation.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries to have made peace with Israel.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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