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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Jordan wants Israeli guard to face justice for fatal embassy shooting

Israeli ambassador will not be allowed to return to Amman unless guard who killed two Jordanians is put on trial

Mourners attend the funeral of 17-year-old Jordanian Mohammed Jawawdeh in Amman on July 25, 2017. The teenager was shot dead by an Israeli embassy security guard who he had allegedly stabbed. Khalil Mazraawi / AFP
Mourners attend the funeral of 17-year-old Jordanian Mohammed Jawawdeh in Amman on July 25, 2017. The teenager was shot dead by an Israeli embassy security guard who he had allegedly stabbed. Khalil Mazraawi / AFP

Jordan is refusing to allow the Israeli ambassador and her staff to return to Amman unless Israel provides guarantees that an Israeli security guard who shot dead a Jordanian assailant near the embassy will be put on trial.

Jordanian media said King Abdullah held the Israeli prime minister responsible for ensuring the law was followed and guaranteeing that justice was served, and not using the incident for political or personal gain.

The assailant, Mohammed Al Juwaida 17, a Jordanian of Palestinian background, had come to the guard's apartment near the embassy to install furniture. A senior official at the Israeli foreign ministry said the attacker stabbed the guard in the back with a screwdriver. The guard shot and killed the attacker but also shot a bystander, the owner of the apartment, who later died of his wounds.

Following the shooting, the guard then fled to the embassy, which was put on lockdown with about 20 staff inside. After a visit to the Jordanian capital on Monday by the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, the Israeli government secured an agreement from Jordan to allow the return to Israel of the entire embassy staff, including the guard.

Jordan’s demands for the guard to be tried were reported on Thursday by the Jordanian daily Al Rai.

The king’s chief of staff, Fayez Tarawneh, said King Abdullah had instructed the government to pursue the case.

King Abdullah, who visited the family of the teenager on Thursday, is quoted as saying, “A staff member of the Israeli embassy shot two of our sons and we will devote all our efforts and tools to achieve justice. Such unacceptable and provocative behaviour makes us boil in anger and leads to undermining security and feeds terrorism and this is not acceptable.”

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

King 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," the king said.

Many Jordanians have accused the authorities of abdicating sovereignty by letting the guard leave, and legislators 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 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 prosecutor said.

An Israeli judicial source said state prosecutors were giving "preliminary consideration" to an investigation.

An Israeli government source 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.

Anger at Israel has escalated in the past two weeks over additional security measures installed at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, of which Jordan is custodian. Those measures were lifted on Thursday.

A protest was planned on Friday to demand the closure of the Israeli embassy in Amman and the scrapping of the peace treaty.

With additional reporting from Reuters