Jordan sent its ambassador back to Israel recently after a prolonged absence that was widely interpreted as a protest over Operation Cast Lead. Israeli diplomatic officials confirmed Monday that the ambassador, Ali al-Ayed, has returned. According to these officials, the envoy left for a meeting of Jordanian ambassadors organized by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry before the IDF operation began on December 27, and stayed away for the duration of the fighting. Although the Jordanians never said Ayed was being held back because of the military operation, that was widely believed to be the reason for his extended stay in Amman. Since Jordan made no formal announcement of protest, Israel had no formal response. Likewise, Israel had no formal response to Ayed's return. Israel's ambassador to Jordan, Ya'acov Reuven, remained in Jordan during this period. Egypt kept its ambassador here throughout the offensive. The only other Arab country with which Israel had diplomatic relations, Mauritania, cut off ties and recalled its ambassador as a result of the Gaza operation. Venezuela and Bolivia also cut off relations. Jordan will be setting up a field hospital in the Gaza Strip within the next two days, equipped with some 45 beds and 180 doctors and nurses as a Jordanian "gesture" to the Palestinian people, Israel Radio reported.