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Jordan's king demands Israel put guard on trial for killing Jordanians

July 28, 2017 at 1:02 am

King Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan speaks during a press conference on 5 April 2017 [Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency]

Jordan’s King Abdullah angrily demanded on Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put on trial an embassy security guard who shot dead two Jordanians, and said relations between the neighbouring states were at risk.

Netanyahu gave the guard a hero’s embrace after Israel brought him home under diplomatic immunity, behaviour that the king said was “provocative on all fronts and enrages us, destabilises security and fuels extremism”.

“We demand that the Israeli Prime Minister abides by his commitment and takes all measures to ensure the trial of the killer, and not handle this like a political show to achieve personal political gains,” he said.

Read: Jordan doctor killed by embassy guard ‘harmless,’ says MK

The guard shot dead Jordanian teenager Mohammad Jawawdah at Israel’s embassy in Amman on Sunday as well as the landlord of the house in the compound where the guard lived.

Israel said the guard had been defending himself after Jawawdah attacked him with a screwdriver in a “terrorist attack”.

But Jordanian police, who were unable to question the guard, said on Monday that he had fired on the 16-year-old after the young man, who worked for a furniture company and was delivering an order, got into a brawl and attacked him. It was not clear how the landlord came to be shot.

Abdullah, who visited the family of the young teen and paid his condolences on Thursday, said the state would “do everything within its means” to get justice for the two men.

Jordan is one of two Arab states with which Israel has peace treaties, and such an outburst against Israel is rare.

Read: Israel-Jordan peace treaty solid despite embassy shooting

Abdullah also cited a previous incident that outraged Jordanians, in which a Jordanian judge was shot in March 2014 by an Israeli soldier at a border crossing. No investigation was ever conducted.

“The way Israel handles the embassy case and the judge’s killing and other cases will have a direct impact on the nature of our relationship,” Abdullah said.

Many Jordanians have accused the authorities of abdicating sovereignty by letting the guard leave, and lawmakers walked out of parliament in protest.

Jordan’s public prosecutor was quoted on state news agency Petra as saying the Israeli security guard was charged under local penal laws with one count of murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

Diplomatic immunity did not mean the “killer” could not be put on trial in his own country, the Jordanian prosecutor said.

An Israeli judicial source who declined to be named said state prosecutors were giving “preliminary consideration” to an investigation. Asked if this could potentially lead to criminal charges, the source said: “Theoretically, any outcome is certainly possible.”

Read: Netanyahu warmly receives soldier who killed Jordanians

An Israeli government source, who also declined to be named, said Israel was also “giving preliminary consideration to offering compensation to the family of the second Jordanian killed in the incident”, meaning the landlord. In a kingdom where many of its citizens are of Palestinian origin, anti-Israeli sentiment has been fuelled by a public perception created over the years that the authorities do not stand up to Israel over treatment of its citizens.

The outpouring of anger against Israel has also been fuelled in recent weeks by the furor over security devices that Israel installed at the Aqsa Mosque, of which Jordan is custodian. Israel has since removed the devices, including metal detectors and CCTV cameras.

Read: MEMO’s blog on the Al-Aqsa crisis

Amman is sensitive to any changes at the site, which Israel captured from Jordan along with other East Jerusalem and West Bank areas in the 1967 war.

Protesters called for a rally on Friday to demand the government close the Israeli Embassy in Amman and scrap the unpopular peace treaty. The embassy has long been a flashpoint of anti-Israel protests at times of turmoil in the Palestinian territories.