JERUSALEM, July 24, (Agencies): A deadly shooting at Israel’s Embassy in Jordan further complicated Israeli government efforts on Monday to find a way out of an escalating crisis over Jerusalem’s most contested holy site, including mass Muslim prayer protests and Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The shooting, in which an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanians after being attacked by one of them with a screwdriver, led to a diplomatic standoff between the two countries at a time when Jordan is heavily involved in efforts to defuse the crisis over the Jerusalem holy site. Jordan is the Muslim custodian of the shrine, which is also holy to Jews.
Jordanian officials said Monday that the guard could only leave if he first submitted to questioning, according to a news site linked to Jordan’s military. Israel insisted the guard has diplomatic immunity.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke to the guard and assured him that Israel has experience in dealing with such situation and would bring him home.
The drama played out as President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, headed to the Holy Land on Monday. It was the first sign of a high-level, on-the-ground attempt by the Trump administration to end the standoff between Israel and the Muslim world.
The escalation began earlier this month when Arab gunmen fired from the holy site, killing two Israeli policemen. In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the site, a move that incensed the Muslim world.
The shooting at Israel’s embassy in the Jordanian capital of Amman could further inflame Jordanian public opinion against Israel.
The Amman shooting took place on Sunday evening in a residential building used by the embassy staff.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the incident began when two Jordanian workmen arrived at the building to replace furniture. It said one of the workers, later identified as a 17-year-old of Palestinian origin, attacked an Israeli security guard with a screwdriver.
The guard opened fire, killing the teen. A second Jordanian, the owner of the building who was also a physician, was hit by gunfire and later died of his wounds. The guard was lightly hurt, the ministry said. The Jordanian news site Hala Akhbar, which is linked to the kingdom’s military, quoted diplomatic and security officials as saying that Jordan refused to let the guard leave without an investigation.
The website quoted the officials as saying that Jordan might take “diplomatic measures” if Israel refuses to meet the demand.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry did not refer to Jordanian demands, but said the guard enjoys diplomatic immunity under international conventions.
An Israeli government official said talks were under way whether to evacuate the embassy staff, given the tensions in Jordan.
He said either all or none of the staff would be evacuated, and that the security guard would not be left behind. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the diplomatic efforts underway to defuse the situation.
The father of the slain teen on Monday called for an investigation and said he would not bury his son until he was shown security camera footage of the investigation.
Zakariah al-Jawawdeh told The Associated Press that his son Mohammed is a “son of Jordan who was shot on Jordanian soil” and he deserved justice. He described Mohammed as apolitical.
Israel’s security Cabinet met from late Sunday until the early hours of Monday to discuss the crisis at the shrine and the embassy shooting, and was to convene again Monday afternoon.
Jordan said Monday it was looking to question an Israeli security guard who killed two Jordanians at the Amman embassy compound, as Israel insisted he had diplomatic immunity.
A Jordanian government source said Israel was “still examining the request” to quiz the guard involved in Sunday’s incident at an annex building in the Israeli embassy compound.
Amman says two Jordanians, one of them a teenager, were killed in a shooting and an Israeli stabbed and wounded.
“The first Jordanian, 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, succumbed to his injuries at the scene,” a Jordanian security source said.
“The second, 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,” the source added.
A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli in the neck at a fast food restaurant near the commercial capital of Tel Aviv on Monday before being arrested, police said.
“A resident from Qalqilya, 21, stabbed an Israeli in the neck with a knife,” in the attack in Petah Tikva, they said in a statement. “The attacker tried to flee” but was arrested by police.
The condition of the man, a 32-year-old Arab Israeli, was not believed to be life threatening. Police suggested the assailant may have thought his target was Jewish.
The attack was the latest in an uptick of violence since July 14, when three Israeli Arabs killed two Israeli security guards near the sensitive Haram al-Sharif mosque compound in Jerusalem before being shot dead.
In response Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the site, sparking major protests and clashes in which five Palestinians have been killed.
Three Israelis were also killed last Friday when a Palestinian broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank and stabbed them.