Last Israeli farmers leave enclave after Jordan deal ends

Tsofar (Israel) (AFP) –


Israeli farmers left an agricultural enclave in neighbouring Jordan possibly for the last time Thursday, as the extension of a lease enabling their use of the border land expired.

Ghumar, known as Tsofar in Hebrew, is a Jordanian territory south of the Dead Sea that was occupied by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967.

Under the 1994 peace deal, Jordan retained sovereignty over the area, along with another territory called Baqura, seized when Israeli forces infiltrated Jordan in 1950.

As part of the 1994 agreement, Jordan agreed to lease both places to Israel for a renewable 25 years, with a one-year notice period for either party.

The lease expired in November after Jordan's King Abdullah II notified Israel that it wanted to take back the two areas.

His decision came as the country suffers high unemployment, inflation and poverty, exacerbated by the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria.

Despite the peace agreement, relations with Israel have been tense in recent years.

Baqura, or Naharayim in Hebrew, was reclaimed in November.

But the kingdom gave Israeli farmers six months to finish growing their crops in Ghumar, a period that expired on Thursday.

Erez Gibori, a farmer from Ghumar whose fields were in the enclave, told AFP Jordan's decision to take back the lands went "against the spirit of the peace agreement."

Gibori said the last farmers, who had grown peppers in the enclave, had left it by Thursday afternoon.

Opinion polls have repeatedly found that the peace treaty with Israel is overwhelmingly opposed by Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin.