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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Jordanian protesters demand closure of Israeli embassy

Killing of two Jordanians by embassy guard sparks calls for scrapping of peace treaty

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, on July 28, 2017. The banner reads, 'Resist don't submit'. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, on July 28, 2017. The banner reads, 'Resist don't submit'. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

AMMAN // Several hundred Jordanians took to the streets of the capital on Friday to demand that the government scrap its peace treaty with Israel after an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanians last week.

The crowd, which included members of leftist groups and activists, called on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador and close Israel’s embassy.

“No to the entity’s embassy on your territory, Amman,” they chanted. “Rabieh needs to be liberated from the embassy and the ambassador.”

The protest took place after Friday prayers outside the Kaloti mosque in the Rabieh disctrict of Amman, which is close to the Israeli embassy.

“We sacrifice our souls and blood for you martyr,” they shouted, and called for the “death of Israel”.

The crowd was not as large as had been expected given widespread outrage over the killings on social media. There was a small police presence at the protest, but security has been strengthened around the Israeli embassy compound since the incident.

“This protest is for our dignity,” said Raeda Kashef, a 50-year-old housewife. “Two Jordanians were killed in cold blood. This is not acceptable.”

Mohammad Al Jawawdeh, a 16-year-old carpenter, was killed shot dead on Sunday after an argument with an Israeli security guard over the delivery and installation of a bed in a flat leased by the Israeli embassy, according to a police report. Jawawdeh attacked and wounded the guard, who shot the teenager and also the Jordanian landlord, Bashar Hamarneh, an orthopaedist, who was standing next to him. The landlord died in hospital.

Jordanian anger at the killings was inflamed by footage of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu embracing and patting the security guard on the shoulder on his arrival back in Israel.

The government said the guard, who enjoyed diplomatic immunity, was allowed to leave the country after authorities took his testimony.

“The killer was smuggled and it was another insult when the prime minister welcomed him while he is a murderer and killer,” said Khaled Habashneh, one of the protesters on Friday.

The Israeli ambassador, Einat Shlein, and embassy staff also returned to Israel after the killings and a Jordanian official confirmed to Agence France-Presse on Friday that they would not be allowed to return to Amman until the incident had been properly investigated.

The killings also drew a strong public response from King Abdullah, who criticised Mr Netanyahu on Thursday and demanded that the the guard face justice.

“A staff member at the Israeli embassy in Amman has shot two of our sons. We will dedicate all the efforts and resources to ensure that justice takes its course,” the king said. “The Israeli prime minister is required to honour his responsibilities and take the necessary legal measures to ensure that the killer is tried and justice is served, instead of displaying political showmanship in dealing with this crime to score political gains. Such behaviour is utterly rejected and provocative. It angers us all, undermines l security, and feeds extremism. It is absolutely unacceptable.”

King Abdullah visited the families of both victims to offer his condolences.

The killings stoked tensions that were already running high over new Israeli security measures at the Al Aqsa compound, of which Jordan is the custodian.

Israel dismantled the measures on Thursday after two weeks of protests, a move the Jordanian government said was needed to defuse tensions.

However, clashes broke out soon afterwards and dozens of people were injured as Israeli forces used stun grenades and fired rubber bullets.