Israel Em­bassy shoot­ing in Jor­dan com­pli­cates cri­sis

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sends en­voy to dif­fuse sit­u­a­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A deadly shoot­ing at Israel’s Em­bassy in Jor­dan fur­ther com­pli­cated Is­raeli govern­ment ef­forts yes­ter­day to find a way out of an es­ca­lat­ing cri­sis over a ma­jor Jerusalem shrine, in­clud­ing mass Mus­lim prayer protests and Is­raeli-Pales­tinian vi­o­lence. The shoot­ing, in which an Is­raeli se­cu­rity guard killed two Jor­da­ni­ans af­ter be­ing at­tacked by one of them with a screw­driver, led to a diplo­matic stand­off be­tween the two coun­tries at a time when Jor­dan is heav­ily in­volved in ef­forts to defuse the cri­sis over the Jerusalem holy site.

Jor­dan is the Mus­lim cus­to­dian of the shrine, which is also holy to Jews. The 37-acre walled com­pound is the third holi­est site of Is­lam, af­ter Mecca and Me­d­ina in Saudi Ara­bia. It is also the holi­est site of Ju­daism, revered as the place where bi­b­li­cal Tem­ples once stood. Jor­da­nian of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day that the guard could only leave af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to a news site linked to Jor­dan’s mil­i­tary. Israel in­sisted the guard has diplo­matic im­mu­nity.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said he spoke to the guard and as­sured him that Israel has ex­pe­ri­ence in deal­ing with such a sit­u­a­tion and would bring him home. He said Jor­dan’s am­bas­sador to Israel came to the For­eign Min­istry ear­lier yes­ter­day “to help solve the cri­sis.” The drama played out as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Mideast en­voy, Ja­son Green­blatt, headed to the Holy Land yes­ter­day. It was the first sign of a high-level, on­the-ground at­tempt by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to end the stand­off be­tween Israel and the Mus­lim world.

The holy site is known to Mus­lims as the Noble Sanc­tu­ary and to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount. The es­ca­la­tion be­gan ear­lier this month when Arab gun­men fired from the holy site, killing two Is­raeli po­lice­men. In re­sponse, Israel in­stalled me­tal de­tec­tors at the site, a move that in­censed the Mus­lim world. The shoot­ing at Israel’s em­bassy in the Jor­da­nian cap­i­tal of Am­man could fur­ther in­flame Jor­da­nian pub­lic opin­ion against Israel.

‘Diplo­matic mea­sures’

The Am­man shoot­ing took place on Sun­day evening in a res­i­den­tial build­ing used by the em­bassy staff. Israel’s For­eign Min­istry said the in­ci­dent be­gan when two Jor­da­nian work­men ar­rived at the build­ing to re­place fur­ni­ture. It said one of the work­ers, later iden­ti­fied as a 17-year-old of Pales­tinian ori­gin, at­tacked an Is­raeli se­cu­rity guard with a screw­driver.

The guard opened fire, killing the teen. A sec­ond Jor­da­nian, the owner of the build­ing who was also a physi­cian, was hit by gun­fire and later died of his wounds. The guard was lightly hurt, the min­istry said. The Jor­da­nian news site Hala Akhbar, which is linked to the king­dom’s mil­i­tary, quoted diplo­matic and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials as say­ing that Jor­dan re­fused to let the guard leave with­out an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The web­site quoted the of­fi­cials as say­ing that Jor­dan might take “diplo­matic mea­sures” if Israel re­fuses to meet the de­mand.

Israel’s For­eign Min­istry did not re­fer to Jor­da­nian de­mands, but said the guard en­joys diplo­matic im­mu­nity un­der in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions. An Is­raeli govern­ment of­fi­cial said talks were un­der way whether to evac­u­ate the em­bassy staff, given the ten­sions in Jor­dan. He said ei­ther all or none of the staff would be evac­u­ated, and that the se­cu­rity guard would not be left be­hind. The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the diplo­matic ef­forts un­der­way to defuse the sit­u­a­tion.

The fa­ther of the slain teen on Mon­day called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and said he would not bury his son un­til he was shown se­cu­rity cam­era footage of the in­ci­dent. Zakariah Al-Jawawdeh told The As­so­ci­ated Press that his son Mo­hammed is a “son of Jor­dan who was shot on Jor­da­nian soil” and he de­served jus­tice. He de­scribed Mo­hammed as apo­lit­i­cal, say­ing his son spent long hours work­ing in the fam­ily fur­ni­ture store and had no time to watch the news.

Israel’s se­cu­rity Cab­i­net met from late Sun­day un­til the early hours of yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the cri­sis at the shrine and the em­bassy shoot­ing, and was to con­vene again yes­ter­day af­ter­noon. Ne­tanyahu said Israel is in reg­u­lar con­tact “with se­cu­rity and govern­ment of­fi­cials on all lev­els in Am­man to bring as speedy a res­o­lu­tion as pos­si­ble to this event.”

Israel and Jor­dan signed a peace deal in 1994, but the agree­ment re­mains deeply un­pop­u­lar in the king­dom where many res­i­dents are of Pales­tinian ori­gin. Jor­dan and Israel have close se­cu­rity ties, but fre­quently clash over Is­raeli poli­cies at the Jerusalem shrine. Jor­dan’s rul­ing Hashemite dy­nasty, said to trace its an­ces­try to the Prophet Muham­mad, draws much of its le­git­i­macy from its role as pro­tec­tor of the shrine.

Grow­ing crit­i­cism

Mean­while, the se­cu­rity Cab­i­net reached no de­ci­sion af­ter a six-hour meet­ing on how to defuse the cri­sis over the Jerusalem shrine, Is­raeli me­dia said. The min­is­ters were re­port­edly re­view­ing the ini­tial de­ci­sion on in­stalling the me­tal de­tec­tors and weigh­ing pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tives. Israel has said the me­tal de­tec­tors were a needed se­cu­rity mea­sure to pre­vent fu­ture at­tacks. How­ever, the govern­ment is fac­ing grow­ing do­mes­tic crit­i­cism, with some com­men­ta­tors say­ing it did not fully weigh all the reper­cus­sions of in­tro­duc­ing new mea­sures at the most volatile spot of the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict.

Mus­lim re­li­gious lead­ers have al­leged that Israel is try­ing to ex­pand its con­trol at the site un­der the guise of se­cu­rity - a claim Israel de­nies. The ten­sions have led to mass prayer protests and deadly Is­raeli-Pales­tinian vi­o­lence. Ikrema Sabri, a se­nior Mus­lim cleric, said Mon­day that Jerusalem’s po­lice chief, Yo­ram Halevi, met a day ear­lier with a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Mus­lim lead­er­ship to dis­cuss so­lu­tions to the cri­sis.

Sabri said newly in­stalled se­cu­rity cam­eras, de­scribed in me­dia re­ports as a pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to the me­tal de­tec­tors, were dis­cussed. He said the lawyer was to brief the Mus­lim lead­er­ship later Mon­day on Israel’s re­sponses.

WEST BANK: Pales­tinian protesters clash with Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces near the Jewish set­tle­ment of Beit El.

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