An Israeli embassy security guard fatally shot two Jordanians in Amman Sunday after one reportedly attacked him with a screwdriver — prompting concerns that the Temple Mount security crisis might exacerbate tensions between the neighboring states.
Israeli media said Jordan had demanded to conduct an investigation and had prevented the Israeli security guard from leaving the country. Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the security guard had diplomatic immunity and that it was working with Jordanian authorities.
Jordan’s Interior Ministry declined to comment and NBC News could not immediately reach Jordan’s Ministry of Information spokesperson.
The incident appeared to be a sign that violence linked to Israel’s placement of metal detectors at the entrances to the Al Asqa mosque in Jerusalem could spread to neighboring Jordan and possibly spark a diplomatic crisis.
Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets Friday to protests against Israeli policies at the shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Jordan manages the ceremonial and religious aspects of the sacred complex.
Danny Yatom, a former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, told NBC News that one solution to the crisis would be for Jordan to hand over the Israeli security guard in return for Israel’s removal of the metal detectors from the gates of Al Asqa.
“I think we have to look now at the broader picture and take into account what happened in Jordan and what is going on Temple Mount and to combine those two problems,” he said.
Yatom suggested “a package deal” should be reached following discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that the Jordanian Ambassador to Israel had held talks with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and had been asked to help resolve the situation.
Oded Eran, a former Israeli Ambassador to Jordan, told journalists that in the short term security should be stepped up outside the embassy and in the long term Jordan should “tone down their statements on Jerusalem and events at Temple Mount.”
Eran said that while behind the scenes there was good cooperation between Israel and Jordan on security and access to water but added that “on the public level there is too much tension and unnecessary noises coming from the Jordanian government.”
He added: “Jordanians need to calm the situation in Amman.”
There are few confirmed details of the incident in the Israeli embassy in Amman, which appears to have happened in a building used as a residency for staff in the embassy compound.
According to a spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry the security guard had escorted two Jordanian workers into the building to replace furniture. The building’s landlord was also present, the spokesperson said.
At one point one of the Jordanian workers attacked the security guard from behind and began stabbing him with a screwdriver, the spokesperson said.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Paul Goldman and Saphora Smith