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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ahmed Daqamseh (Photo credit: Reuters)

(Israel Hayom) A Jordanian soldier who in 1997 killed seven Israeli schoolgirls was released Sunday after serving 20 years in prison.

The attack took place on March 13, 1997, when Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh of the Jordanian army opened fire on a group of seventh- and eighth-grade Israeli schoolgirls visiting the Island of Peace, a joint Israeli-Jordanian tourist resort under Jordanian rule. Daqamseh killed seven girls and wounded five others and a teacher before Jordanian soldiers were able to stop him.

Later that year, Daqamseh was convicted of multiple counts of murder by a military tribunal and was sentenced to life in prison, which under Jordanian law is 20 years. He would have faced the death penalty but the tribunal ruled he was mentally unstable at the time of the shooting.

The attack came three years after Israel and Jordan signed their historic peace treaty. Jordan’s King Hussein, the late father of King Abdullah, made a public apology to Israel over the murders. Hussein, who was on a state visit to Spain at the time of the shooting, rushed to Israel and paid condolences visits to the girls’ families, a gesture that touched many Israelis.

Amer Sartawi, a spokesman for Jordan’s Public Security Directorate, said Daqamseh had served his sentence in full and was freed early Sunday morning.

Daqamseh’s family told local media he had gone to his family home in the village of Ibdir, in northern Jordan.

In 2011, then-Justice Minister Hussein Mjali sparked controversy when he called for Daqamseh’s release, claiming he was “a hero.” Israel rebuked Jordan’s ambassador over the incident.

Jordanian lawmakers have in the past lobbied for Daqamseh’s early release. In 2013, 110 out of 150 members of the Jordanian parliament signed a petition calling for his parole.