An Israeli security guard working for the Israeli Embassy in Amman is being prevented from leaving Jordan, after he killed two Jordanians Sunday evening while being attacked by one of them with a screwdriver.
The incident, coming amid already sky-high tensions between Jerusalem and Amman over the Temple Mount, has sparked a diplomatic showdown between the neighboring allies.
The Israeli security guard, who was injured during the attack, enjoys diplomatic immunity according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and is safe from arrest and investigation, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday morning.
However, Jordanian authorities are reportedly preventing the man from leaving, and reportedly want to question him in their investigation into the matter.
The family of the first Jordanian victim, a 17-year-old worker, is reportedly demanding the Israeli security guard be put on trial and sentenced to death. “We are confident that the court will impose the most serious punishment,” Israel’s Army Radio quoted an unnamed relative of the youth declaring on Monday morning.
The Israeli security guard and his colleagues are currently being held in the Israeli Embassy compound, according to Israel’s Channel 2 news.
In light of the diplomatic crisis, Israel’s security cabinet was set to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the matter. Overnight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with the security officers and with Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Shalin.
“The Foreign Ministry and the security forces are working through various channels with the Jordanian government,” the statement read.
The incident occurred late Sunday afternoon, but was kept under gag order by the Israeli military censor for some 11 hours until Monday morning, preventing Israeli media from reporting it even as it made headlines around the world.
The Israeli security guard, whose name was still subject to a gag order, had some furniture removed at his apartment adjacent to the Israeli Embassy in the residential Rabiyeh neighborhood of Amman, when the Jordanian worker stabbed him in the back with a screwdriver.
“The security officers responded on the self-defense. He was lightly injured,” the Foreign Ministry statement read. “The worker was killed. During the incited, the owners [of the apartment, who was present] was injured and later died from his wounds.”
According to a security source who spoke to AFP, the Jordanian worker was 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh. He succumbed to his injuries at the scene, the source said. The second Jordanian victim, Bashar Hamarneh, a doctor who was in the residential quarter of the embassy at the time of the incident… died of his injuries after midnight in hospital,” according to the source.
Additional details about the incident were also still under a gag order.
The government-owned Jordanian Petra News Agency on Sunday night reported that police were investigating the incident.
Jordan’s Public Security Department “launched an extensive investigation into the incident and informed the Public Prosecution in order to find out all details and circumstances in accordance with legal procedures followed in such cases,” the report stated.
The injured Israeli is “deputy director of security at the Israeli embassy and is still receiving treatment in hospital,” the security source told AFP.
After the incident, Jordanian security forces were deployed in the streets around the embassy. According to Jordanian media reports, forces used tear gas to disperse protesters who gathered at the site after the incident.
Some reports in Jordan described the incident as a domestic dispute, but Israeli reports indicated Jerusalem suspected the attack was nationalistically motivated, against the background of rising tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The father of Jawawdeh described his son as a “martyr for Allah,” in an interview with Jordanian news site al-Ghad.
The attack comes amid mounting tensions between Israel and Jordan over the Temple Mount following the shooting dead of two Israeli police officers by three Arab Israelis who emerged from the holy site using guns they had smuggled in.
The killing of the two officers precipitated a sharp rise in violence in the region.
Jordan, which plays a key role in administering Muslim sites on the compound, has vehemently objected to Israeli security measures at the site since the attack.
Israel is reportedly in talks with Jordan on ways to defuse the crisis.
Jordan had angered Israel last week after the Jordanian parliament last week praised the three terrorists who carried out the July 14 shooting attack at the Temple Mount, even though King Abdullah II condemned the attack.
The parliament also criticized Israel for closing the Temple Mount, and prayed for the souls of the three terrorists.
Hundreds of people have taken part in recent protests against Israel in Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population.
Following the attack at the Temple Mount, Israel set up metal detectors, but the Waqf Islamic authorities, working under the aegis of Amman, refused to go through them, saying it violated the status quo at the site.