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Shin Bet chief visits Jordan in bid to defuse crisis

Israel said in talks with authorities in Amman to resolve deadlock over security guard who killed two when attacked at embassy

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)

A senior Israeli defense official was in Amman on Monday in an effort to resolve a serious diplomatic crisis that erupted a day before, after a security guard shot dead two Jordanians, one of whom was attacking him, in the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman.

Jordanian authorities want to interrogate the guard about the incident, while Israel is refusing to hand him over.

The Israeli official, who was revealed on Monday evening to have been Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet domestic security agency, was seeking to negotiate a solution for a widening diplomatic rift that is threatening relations between the two countries. He returned to Israel later in the day and updated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the situation in Jordan.

“Talks are being held with the Jordanians via the defense establishment,” a senior Israeli official told Haaretz. “We are trying to move toward ending this crisis.”

In light of the crisis, Israel’s security cabinet was set to meet on Monday evening to discuss the matter, after having convened for more than six hours the night before.

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu said that Israel was striving to end the crisis and to bring the security guard home. He is scheduled to talk to Jordan’s King Abdullah II by phone later Monday.

Speaking in Jerusalem alongside Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Netanyahu said that he had spoken twice with Israel’s Ambassador to Jordan Einat Schlein following Sunday’s incident, as well as with the security guard.

“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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili hold a press conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on July 24, 2017. (AFP/POOL/JACK GUEZ)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili hold a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem on July 24, 2017. (AFP/POOL/JACK GUEZ)

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-Jawadah, 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-Jawadah, 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 decision to place metal detectors at the gates to the Temple Mount, after two Israeli police officers were shot dead just outside the compound by assailants who had smuggled guns inside the holy site.

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. Israel denies changing the status quo.

On Monday, Jordanian officials told the al-Ghad daily that Jordan will not allow the Israeli security guard to leave the country and must hand him over to be interrogated over the incident, with one government source saying that Amman would escalate the diplomatic standoff with Jerusalem until he is turned over for questioning.

The Israeli security guard, who was injured during the attack, enjoys diplomatic immunity according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and is safe from arrest and investigation, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday morning.

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