The deputy security chief of the Israeli embassy in the Jordanian capital of Amman was wounded Sunday night, July 23, after being stabbed by a Jordanian man who was subsequently shot dead. A second Jordanian was also injured in the incident and later succumbed to his wounds.
The shooting took place in a residential building used by Israeli embassy staff in the heavily protected embassy located in the Rabiyeh neighborhood. Two Jordanians worked for a furniture company and entered the embassy compound to carry out repairs.
According to the Israeli media, the security guard acted in self-defense after being attacked with a screwdriver by a 17-year-old Jordanian, opened fire and killed the attacker. The Jordanian owner of the apartment was hit by gunfire inadvertently and later died. The Israeli was in "unstable" condition, reported news site Hala Akhbar, linked to the Jordanian military.
The incident happens on the background of the Jerusalem Temple Mount terrorist attack and the following massive manifestations against Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and some Arab world countries, including Jordan. Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of Amman after last Friday prayers to denounce the Israeli measures at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound. Jordan is the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
No doubt this extremely serious event will complicate the already strained relationship between Jordan and Israel, entangled in sensitive regional negotiations to resolve the Jerusalem Temple Mount crisis and stabilize the situation.
Jordan wants to question the Israeli guard, but according to the Vienna convention the security man has immunity from investigation and arrest.
Both the Foreign Ministry and security officials are working through various channels with the Jordanian government in an attempt to contain the situation.
In 1997, when Mossad intelligence officers tried but failed to assassinate senior Hamas official Khaled Meshaal in Amman, the incident provoked a serious diplomatic crisis between the two countries and the two leaders, King Hussein and PM Netanyahu. Ties recovered after Israel delivered the antidote for the poison with which Meshaal had been injected and liberated the then imprisoned leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
The Jordanian regime is already threatened by another crisis. On July 17, a Jordanian military court convicted 1st Sgt. Maarek Abu Tayeh of the premeditated killing of three U.S. Green Berets last November at Prince Faisal Air Base in al-Jafr, in the kingdom's south. He was sentenced to life in prison. Since the ruling, Abu Tayeh's tribe, the Howeitat, an important supporter of Hashemite rule, has been protesting and angrily denouncing the monarchy for the U.S. military presence in the kingdom and criticizing the Jordanian military for "abandon[ing] [Abu Tayeh] instead of protecting him."
A recent historic example proves the difficulty of Arab regimes, even those with diplomatic relations with Israel, to sustain normal relations with the Jewish state.
In September 2011, seven months after the popular uprising in Egypt, hundreds of protesters against Egypt's ruling generals, broke into the Israeli embassy in Cairo tearing down large sections of a security wall. For hours, Egyptian security forces made no attempt to intervene.
Six members of the embassy staff, who had been in a "safe room", were evacuated from the site by Egyptian commandos, following the personal intervention of United States President Barack Obama. Following the attack, the Israeli deputy ambassador remained in Cairo; 85 staff members and their families returned to Israel. Since then there is no Israeli embassy building in Cairo.
In a similar incident in September 1999, in Germany, 200 PKK Kurdish supporters armed with iron bars entered the Israeli consulate in a tranquil Berlin suburb. Israeli guards opened fire killing 3 intruders and wounding 16 in the worst violence since Europe-wide protests erupted over the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party.
They apparently chose their target in response to rumors that the Israeli Mossad had played a role in Turkey's capture of Ocalan in Kenya. Senior representatives of the PKK in Europe later admitted to this author that the Greek highest authorities “betrayed” Ocalan and helped his arrest in Kenya. The PKK never staged terrorist attacks against Israeli targets.
In contrast to the Egyptian behavior, German police arrested 30 PKK supporters and cordoned off all area and helicopters circled over consulate building. No Israeli guard was arrested or put on trial.
Hopefully, the Amman shooting incident will be solved through intensive political and diplomatic contacts before it grows to a major bilateral and regional crisis.