They shared ice cream, kisses and hugs in a Beirut playground, then Sally Faulkner had to say goodbye to the two children for whom she came to Lebanon.
As she boarded a plane to return to Australia today, Ms Faulkner knew that, after the botched abduction attempt with a 60 Minutes crew, it would be a long time before she saw five year old Lahela and Noah, 3, again.
Ms Faulkner’s tears came after the children left, her estranged husband Ali Elamine said.
“Sal had fun, the kids had fun, that’s all that matters,” he said.
“She’s their mother and obviously they are going to enjoy time with her.”
The Australian Family Court granted Ms Faulkner full custody of her two children but she gave up that right in exchange for Mr Elamine dropping his abduction charges, allowing Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew’s release after two weeks in a Beirut prison.
Ms Faulkner is expected to land in Brisbane on Saturday morning.
Mr Elamine has said he won’t let the children return to Australia, but Ms Faulkner can visit them in Lebanon or a third country such as the UAE or Cyprus.
Asked if it was right to separate the children from their mother, Mr Elamine replied: “No, no, we are discussing that, Sal and I, right now. If she is not here, she can Skype them and whenever she feels the need or wants to come over.”
Mr Elamine has not dropped charges against the child recovery team members who seized the children on a Beirut street as they walked with Mr Elamine’s mother on April 6.
“They were the ones who were the muscle on the ground,” Mr Elamine said.
“They are the ones who orchestrated most of it.
“The kids obviously felt the effect of that. Noah still hates being outside, away from me. I think he is a bit scared someone might come and snatch him.”