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White House: Trump calls Jordanian king regarding tensions in region

July 29, 2017 7:24 P.M. (Updated: July 29, 2017 7:24 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- US President Donald Trump and Jordan's King Abdullah spoke on the phone on Friday, according to a statement from the White House that said the two heads of state were “encouraged by the efforts taken to de-escalate tensions and by the progress that has been made” regarding  “events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks.”

Trump also "emphasized Jordan’s important role in regional security” in the call, according to the statement.

The call came after a two-week-long civil disobedience campaign launched by Palestinian in Jerusalem succeeded in pressuring the Israeli government to remove new security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, which is under Jordanian custodianship. 

Six Palestinians were killed by Israelis, one of whom was killed by an Israeli settler, as the mass protests were violently suppressed by Israeli forces. A further 1,000 Palestinian demonstrators were injured over a ten-day period, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Trump had reportedly not spoken with the Israeli prime minister nor the Palestinian president throughout the Al-Aqsa crisis.

Trump's call with the King Abdullah also came as the Jordanian officials announced that murder charges have been filed against an Israeli embassy security guard who shot and killed two Jordanian citizens in Amman last week, as King Abdullah demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the guard on trial.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had said 17-year-old Muhammad Zakariya al-Jawawdeh, a worker installing furniture at the security guard’s apartment, crept up behind the guard and began stabbing him with a screwdriver, prompting the guard to open fire, killing al-Jawawdeh and also fatally shooting the Jordanian owner of the building, who was present at the scene.

Though Israeli authorities have been treating the incident as a possible attack in retaliation to tensions in Jerusalem, family members of al-Jawawdeh claimed that the boy did not even know the security guard was Israeli, and that the two simply got into a work-related dispute before the guard murdered their son.

The security guard, along with the entire Israeli diplomatic mission to Jordan, returned to Israel on Monday night as Israel refused to allow Jordanian authorities to question the guard, citing his immunity under the Vienna Conventions -- a body of international law which Israel has been accused of regularly violating.

On Thursday, Jordanian Attorney General Akram Masaadeh announced that the public prosecution indicted the guard, identified only as Ziv, with two counts of murder and the possession of a firearm without a licence, Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. 

Masaadeh reportedly said that due to Ziv’s diplomatic and judicial immunity, the prosecution decided that they cannot prosecute him. However, the attorney general highlighted that being registered as a diplomat does not exempt the killer of standing trial in his country.

Israeli news site Ynet cited “political sources privy to the initial Israeli investigation” as saying that “it appears the security guard behaved properly under the circumstances after the Jordanian stabbed him three times, twice in the back and once in the chest."

Many Jordanians have accused Jordanian authorities of abdicating sovereignty by letting the guard leave the country, and lawmakers walked out of parliament in protest. On Friday, 56 members of the Jordanian parliament reportedly signed a petition calling to expel Israeli ambassador Einat Schlein and to bring back Jordanian ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat. 

Israel had requested that ambassador Schlein return to Jordan and resume her duties but the Jordanian government refuses to accept her until Israel provides them with assurances that the guard will be put to trial.

Hundreds of Jordanians also participated in a march in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman on Friday in order to demand its closure and cancel an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in protest of the killing.

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