Furious Jordan MPs protest release of Israeli Embassy guard
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Furious Jordan MPs protest release of Israeli Embassy guard

Legislators scuffle and leave plenum as interior minister explains Israeli security guard killed two Jordanians while he was being attacked

An acrimonious session of Jordan’s parliament was cut short after lawmakers scuffled and then walked out in protest over their government’s handling of a deadly shooting at the Israeli Embassy in the kingdom.

Interior Minister Ghaleb al-Zoabi presented the initial findings to lawmakers on Tuesday, saying an Israeli security guard opened fire, killing two Jordanians, after one of them attacked him with a screwdriver.

He said Sunday’s shooting took place during a furniture delivery to a building linked to the embassy, meaning the incident was covered by diplomatic immunity rules.

A video of the incident showed one lawmaker hitting another with a bottle of water as parliamentarians argue over the findings.

Initially, Jordan had refused to let the guard leave without an investigation, but he and all other embassy staff returned to Israel on Monday.

The legislators’ walkout reflected widespread anger in Jordan over the shooting, and ongoing tensions with Israel.

Family members of the Jordanian attacker had accused the guard of killing in cold blood and demanded he be tried and executed.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement in 1994 and have enjoyed close, but sometimes cold official ties.

Jordanian security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy in Amman following an 'incident' on July 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)
Jordanian security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy in Amman following an ‘incident’ on July 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

The guard’s release was part of a larger effort to de-escalate tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the installation of metal detectors at access points following a July 14 terror attack had enraged local Muslims and prompted condemnation from Jordan. The Temple Mount is the most sacred place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

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

Ziv 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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Einat Shlain and security guard 'Ziv,' who shot dead two Jordanians as he was being stabbed by one of them. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Einat Shlein and security guard ‘Ziv,’ who shot dead two Jordanians, as he was being stabbed by one of them. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel insisted that Ziv had diplomatic immunity and was therefore safe from arrest and interrogation by Jordanian police, according to the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations. But Jordanian authorities initially refused to let the Israeli leave the country, stoking fears of a major crisis between Amman and Jerusalem.

After the head of Israel’s Shin Bet General Security Service Nadav Argaman flew Monday to Amman for direct negotiations to resolve the issue and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with King Abdullah II, the embassy staff arrived back in Israel late Monday night. Minutes afterwards, the security cabinet voted to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount, a move Jordan had demanded since Israel erected them following the deadly July 14 terror attack at the site.

Also on Monday, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt arrived in the region to help broker an agreement. He met with Netanyahu and later headed to Jordan.

However, on Tuesday, Muslim leaders advised worshipers to continue to stay away from the site pending a review of the new Israeli security arrangements there that will include high-tech cameras to detect weapons.

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. Walk-through metal detectors were installed after the July 14 terror attack in which three Arab Israelis, using weapons they had brought into the holy site, emerged and opened fire on police officers at the nearby Lions Gate of the Old City, killing two of them. The attackers then retreated into the Temple Mount where they were killed by pursuing police.

Screenshot from a Channel 10 report on November 19, 2014 on the Jordanian Parliament's moment of silence for the two Palestinian terrorists who killed five people in a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue on November 18, 2014.
Screenshot from a Channel 10 report on November 19, 2014 on the Jordanian Parliament’s moment of silence for the two Palestinian terrorists who killed five people in a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue on November 18, 2014.

Following the assault, the Jordanian parliament praised the terrorists who carried out the shooting less than a day after Abdullah II condemned the attack.

The Jordanian parliament also prayed for the souls of the three terrorists who carried out the attack, Jordanian media reported at the time.

“May the mercy of Allah be upon our martyrs who sowed and watered the pure land,” said Parliament Speaker Atef Tarawneh. “We will raise our heads through the sacrifice of the young Palestinians who are still fighting in the name of the nation.”

He blessed the families of the three cousins, Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19 and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19, who carried out the attack.

Tarawneh also blamed Israel for the shooting, claiming that the “occupation” of Jerusalem and the West Bank justified the killing.

The Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is administered by a Jordanian-controlled Islamic trust, the Waqf. Amman had been highly critical of what it perceived as changes to the status quo at the holy site following the introduction of the metal detectors. Palestinians too had denounced the measures as a bid by Israel to assert control over the holy site and Islamic leaders called on worshipers to boycott the site until the detectors were removed.

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

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