Families of the seven Israeli schoolgirls murdered by Jordanian solider Ahmad Daqamseh on March 13, 1997, expressed outrage at his release on Sunday.
“You know what day is tomorrow? It will mark 20 years since my daughter was taken in cold blood,” said Shlomo Badayev, whose daughter Shiri was killed at the age of 14. “And the murderer is going free. Of course this hurts.”
In July 1997, a five-member Jordanian military tribunal found Daqamseh guilty of opening fire at a group of Israeli schoolchildren and killing seven of them before soldiers seized him and rushed to help the victims.
Daqamseh would have faced the death penalty, but the tribunal said he was mentally unstable. Instead he was given a life sentence, which is equivalent to 20 years under Jordanian law.
“He should have been sentenced for longer, he killed seven girls,” said Yisrael Fatihi, whose 13-year-old daughter Sivan was killed in the attack. “My daughter should be 34 today. But what can you do, we are just the families and we will continue living.
“What is really a pity is that he is being accepted as a hero,” he added.
Daqamseh became a hero to a strong opposition movement led by Islamists and nationalists in Jordan who vehemently opposed the country’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
“That he is being released the day before the 20th anniversary is very sad. It’s a smack in the face,” said Hezi Cohen, whose daughter Nirit was killed at the age of 13. Cohen went on to argue that the Israeli government did not do enough to prevent the release of Daqamseh.
“They did nothing!” he said.
“Where was [former defense minister Moshe] Ya’alon? They should have done more to prevent this.”
In remembering his daughter, Cohen lamented the opportunities that were taken from her. “She was so smart, she could have been a doctor, a professor, even the prime minister,” he said.
Eti Malka, sister of 13-year-old victim Adi Malka, said she and her family were devastated by Daqamseh’s release. “I cannot explain what I feel. We are all broken, all broken,” Malka told Walla News. “I saw how he looks today, and I imagine how my sister would look after 20 years.
I mostly feel anger. I thought there would be a miracle [that the killer would not be released], and then I see him celebrated as a hero.”Reuters contributed to this report.