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Israeli embassy staff, including guard who killed 2, leave Jordan amid investigation

July 25, 2017 3:46 P.M. (Updated: July 25, 2017 9:50 P.M.)
The Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan. (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Staff members of the Israeli embassy to Jordan, including a security guard who killed two Jordanians, returned to Israel on Monday night after a day of tensions between the two countries over the deadly shootout.

A Jordanian investigation into the shooting, in which Muhammad Zakariya al-Jawawdeh, 17, and Bashar Hamarneh were killed, revealed that the deadly incident started off as a professional dispute, official Jordanian news agency Petra reported on Monday.

According to Jordanian police, al-Jawawdeh had accompanied a relative delivering furniture to the security guard’s apartment in the Israeli compound in Amman, when an argument over alleged delays turned physical.

Witnesses said that al-Jawawdeh attacked the Israeli security guard -- whom Israeli media have referred to as Ziv -- with a screwdriver, after which the Israeli shot at him and Hamarneh, the apartment building owner.

Petra reported that the case had been referred to a prosecutor for further legal steps, as Jordan and Israel have sparred over whether the security guard should be handed over to Jordanian custody.

Israel, meanwhile, has refused to allow Jordanian authorities to question the injured Israeli security guard, citing his immunity under the Vienna Conventions -- a body of international law which Israel has been accused of regularly violating.

Nadav Argaman, the director of Israel’s intelligence service, the Shin Bet, traveled to Jordan in an attempt to resolve the situation, whereas Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a phone call with Jordan’s King Abdullah over the case.

The Israeli security guard thanked Netanyahu for helping him leave Jordan without facing interrogation or criminal charges.

"I know an entire country stands behind us. You told me yesterday I'd return home, and you calmed me down, and then it happened. I thank you wholeheartedly,” Israeli news outlet Ynet quoted him as saying.

Despite reports that Israeli authorities would remove metal detectors at the entrance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem in exchange for securing the return of the security guard, Netanyahu denied that such an agreement had taken place.

Relations between Israel and Jordan were already tense before the Amman shooting, as Israeli authorities had installed increased security measures in the Al-Aqsa compound, which is under Jordanian custodianship, following a deadly shooting attack on July 14.

The move has sparked protests from Palestinians, who said it was the latest example of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing repressive measures against Palestinians. Major solidarity protests were also staged in Amman.

Seven Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since the attack, and at least 1,090 Palestinians have been wounded during demonstrations which were violently repressed by Israeli forces across the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Israeli security cabinet ruled on Monday night to remove metal detectors at the entrances of Al-Aqsa, only to add “smart” security cameras in the compound, a move which has been rejected by Palestinians as not resolving the issue of increased Israeli control of the holy site.
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