Jordanian riot police maintained control of several hundred angry protesters gathered on Monday in front of the Israeli Embassy in Amman demanding the Israeli ambassador’s expulsion and burning Israeli flags. The protests were sparked by the killing of a Jordanian who reportedly attacked an Israeli soldier at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and Israel.
Riot police were able to maintain control of the crowds, according to embassy commissioner Haim Assaraf, who told Israel Radio that everyone at the mission was safe. Jordanian media had reported earlier that the protesters had attempted to break into the embassy compound, trapping the staff inside for hours.
The official Israeli account of events at the border crossing Monday morning stated that the Jordanian who was shot to death, Raed Zeiter, a magistrate judge, tried to steal a border guard’s rifle while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” the Arabic expression meaning “God is great” frequently accompanying terror attacks.
“The terrorist ran toward soldiers yelling, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ attempting to seize their weapons,” the Israeli military said. “The soldiers felt an immediate threat to their lives and fired toward his lower extremities. The suspect then began to strangle a soldier and the force resorted to firing again.”
Shootings at the Allenby crossing on the West Bank-Jordan border are rare. The border terminal is operated jointly by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It is the main border crossing for Palestinians from the West Bank travelling to neighbouring Jordan and beyond.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement in 1994 and have close security ties, though anti-Israel sentiment among the Jordanian people remains high.
At the leadership level, cooperation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and that of Jordanian King Abdullah II has grown stronger. Regarding security issues, Israel and Jordan have demonstrated unprecedented coordination between both countries’ militaries and their intelligence forces working together to prevent terror attacks by both al-Qaeda-related groups and by Hamas.
But at street level, it is a different story. Anti-Israel incitement is routinely stoked by Jordanian parliamentarians and by Jordanian news reports highlighting Israeli settlement construction, control of Jerusalem’s holy sites, and the deaths of Palestinians in clashes with Israeli security.