Amman embassy officer returns to Israel, in end to standoff
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'I told you we'd bring you home,' Netanyahu tells Ziv soon after Israelis cross the border

Amman embassy officer returns to Israel, in end to standoff

Guard wounded in incident that saw him kill his attacker and another man crosses border with other staff after Jordan drops demand to question him

Jordanian security forces parked near the approach toward the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday, June 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Omar Akour)
Jordanian security forces parked near the approach toward the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday, June 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Omar Akour)

The staff of Israel’s embassy in Amman returned from Jordan through the Allenby Crossing on Monday night, including a security officer who had been wounded in a stabbing incident that caused a diplomatic flare-up between the two countries.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the return of the staffers, led by Ambassador Einat Schlein, was facilitated by “close cooperation” between Israel and Amman over the last day. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the guard’s release was part of a larger agreement to deescalate tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Earlier Monday, the director of the Shin Bet domestic security agency, Nadav Argaman, was in Amman in an effort to resolve the crisis, which erupted on Sunday, after the security officer shot dead his stabber and another Jordanian national inside the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman.

Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Schlein to welcome her back, as well as with the security officer, whom he addressed as Ziv and whose full identity has not been released for publication. Both Schlein and Ziv told Netanyahu how “grateful” they were for his efforts to bring them safely home. Ziv said he felt “the whole country” was with him.

“I told you we’d bring you home,” said Netanyahu. “And here you are, back home.” The prime minister asked Ziv if he’d arranged a date yet with his girlfriend. Not yet, said the guard.

In the hours before the embassy staff returned, Netanyahu also spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

According to a readout published by Jordanian state media, the king demanded Israel find an “immediate solution” to ongoing crisis at the Temple Mount, and remove metal detectors it installed at entrances to the site following a terror attack earlier this month in which two Israeli police officers were killed just outside the compound by three assailants who had smuggled guns inside the holy site.

The king spoke of “the necessity to remove the measures taken by the Israeli side since the recent crisis began,” according to the readout and in reference to the unrest across Jerusalem and the West Bank after the implementation of the new security arrangements at the Temple Mount following the July 14 attack.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied a Channel 2 report Monday evening that Amman had demanded the metal detectors be removed as a condition for securing the passage of the Israeli security guard.

Jordanian authorities had initially sought to interrogate the guard over the incident, while Israel refused to hand him over, in what devolved into a tense standoff.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone with Israel's ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, and the security official who was stabbed and shot two Jordanians, on their return to Israel, July 24, 2017 (courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone with Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, and the security official who was stabbed and shot two Jordanians, on their return to Israel, July 24, 2017 (courtesy)

Israel’s security cabinet met Monday evening to discuss the matter, after having convened for more than six hours the night before.

Speaking in Jerusalem alongside Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili earlier in the day, Netanyahu said that he had spoken twice with Schlein following Sunday’s incident, as well as with the security guard himself.

“I promised the security official that we will work to return him to Israel; we are already experienced in this,” he said. “I told the two of them that we are in constant contact with government and security officials in Amman at all levels, in order to bring as quick an end as possible to the incident.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the Israeli guard was stabbed by 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, who was in an embassy residence installing a bedroom set.

The guard opened fire on Jawawdeh, killing him and a second man, Bashar Hamarneh, at the site, in what the ministry said was self-defense.

Some members of Jawawdeh’s family said he was killed in cold blood and demanded the Israeli guard be executed.

Zakaria al-Jawawdah, center left, the father of Mohammed Mohammed al-Jawawdeh, a 17-year-old Jordanian, who was killed on Sunday evening by an Israeli security guard who said he was attacked by him with a screwdriver, cries at a funeral tent in Amman, Jordan, Monday, July 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Reem Saad)
Zakaria al-Jawawdah, center left, the father of Mohammed Mohammed al-Jawawdeh, a 17-year-old Jordanian, who was killed on Sunday evening by an Israeli security guard who said he was attacked by him with a screwdriver, cries at a funeral tent in Amman, Jordan, Monday, July 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Reem Saad)

Prior to the stabbing at the Israeli Embassy compound in Jordan, ties were already fraying, with Jordan sharply criticizing Israel’s security measures at the Temple Mount. Authorities also introduced additional security equipment at entrances to the holy site overnight Saturday.

The Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is administered by a Jordanian-controlled Islamic trust, and Amman has been highly critical of what it perceives as changes to the status quo at the holy site. Palestinians too have denounced the measures as a bid by Israel to assert control over the holy site.

Israel has repeatedly and vociferously denied changing the status quo or trying to do so.

Jerusalem has argued that the measures in place at the site following the terror attack were meant to ensure the security of all those wishing to access the Temple Mount.

But the new arrangements had set of riots and clashes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the week following the attack and last Friday, after midday prayers. Five Palestinians were killed in clashes Friday and Saturday.

Late on Friday, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family at their Shabbat table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, as others, including children, rushed to hide. He was shot and wounded by an off-duty soldier who lives nearby.

Hours before he perpetrated the attack Friday, he wrote a Facebook post in which he called for the need to defend the al-Aqsa mosque. “I only have a knife and it will answer the call of Al-Aqsa,” he wrote.

The terrorist, Omar al-Abed, 19, was affiliated with Hamas but was not an activist, the IDF said. He had been arrested three months ago by security forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and had been detained for two weeks

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