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Archive for Middle East

Newsline: Israel launches preliminary investigation of Amman embassy shootings

Israel said it would conduct a preliminary investigation into the July 23 shooting to death of two Jordanians by a guard at its Amman embassy who the kingdom says should face criminal prosecution. Citing the guard’s diplomatic immunity, Israel repatriated him and other embassy staff after the incident, which stirred up anger in Jordan, where the 1994 peace deal between the countries is unpopular and pro-Palestinian sentiment widespread. Israel says the guard fired in self-defense after being stabbed by screwdriver-wielding Jordanian workman, who was killed along with a Jordanian bystander hit by stray gunfire. Jordanian authorities initially said there had been an altercation before the shooting, but later described the incident as a double homicide and demanded Israel put the guard on trial. Israel’s attorney-general on Friday ordered police to “look into” the shootings, the justice ministry said in a statement, using terminology signifying a preliminary probe that could be upgraded into a criminal investigation if warranted. Jordan reacted positively to the Israeli moves but said it expected further “tangible judicial” moves to follow. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under pressure at home for his handling of a surge in Palestinian unrest around a contested Jerusalem holy site, gave the guard a hero’s welcome. That infuriated Amman, prompting U.S. crisis mediation. Israel has tried to keep the guard’s identity under wraps, saying he could be targeted for reprisals. But a Jordanian newspaper published his diplomatic accreditation, including his name and photograph. Israeli officials have said that, as well as the probe into the shootings, they are considering offering compensation to the family of the slain Jordanian bystander – the owner of a property rented out to the embassy.


Newsline: Former US diplomat again found liable for raping housekeeper

A former U.S. diplomat has for the second time been found liable for enslaving and sexually trafficking a housekeeper while posted at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. A jury in Alexandria, Va., federal court on Monday agreed that Linda Howard and her husband Russell Howard forced an Ethiopian maid into sexual slavery in 2008, repeatedly raping her. Howard was ordered to pay $3 million in damages to the now 30-year-old woman, identified only Sarah Roe, who lives in Virginia. Five years ago, Howard and her Australian husband, Russell Howard, were found liable in the same court for trafficking another Ethiopian housekeeper in 2008. They were ordered to pay her $3.3 million. However, the couple had already fled from Arlington, Va. to Australia and contested the judgment there, settling only in 2015. Howard left the State Department in 2013; her husband died in 2012. She denied the fresh allegations and argued that Roe could not sue for civil damages under a human trafficking law that did not pass until 2008.


Newsline: Attack near Iraqi embassy in Kabul reported

A suicide bomber has attacked a police compound and the nearby Iraqi embassy in Kabul on Monday, security officials in the Afghan capital say. Sources tell Al Jazeera that fighters are holed up in a building close to the Iraqi embassy in Shar-e-Naw and a gun battle is under way. “We heard two explosions near the Iraqi embassy and part of the building has been damaged,” Mohsen Negaresh, a witness, told Al Jazeera. Police confirmed the blast had taken place, but said they did not immediately have further information. The attack comes a week after at least 35 people were killed in a suicide attack on government workers in Kabul and underlines the precarious security in Afghanistan as the US administration considers an overhaul of its policy in the region.


Newsline: Jordanian protesters demand closure of Israel’s embassy

Protesters gathered near the Israeli Embassy in the Jordanian capital Amman, angry that an Israeli embassy guard who shot dead a Jordanian had returned to Israel and been granted diplomatic immunity. A Reuters witness said around 200 people had assembled peacefully in the vicinity of the embassy. Scores chanted, “Death to Israel,” and called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and scrapping of a peace treaty with Israel. A heavy Jordanian police presence had sealed off the area around the embassy so the protesters gathered nearby. Lasy Sunday an embassy guard shot dead Jordanian teenager Mohammad Jawawdah as well as the landlord of the house in the compound where the guard lived. Israel said the guard had been defending himself after Jawawdah assaulted him with a screwdriver in a “terrorist attack.” Israel is examining the July 23 incident, in accordance with its usual legal procedures. The offices of the state prosecutor and the attorney general have asked all parties connected to the incident hand over all relevant material. Israel plans to update Jordan on its examination of the incident.


Newsline: Jordan’s King Abdullah II slams Netanyahu over embassy killings

Jordan’s Abdullah II has demanded a trial against the security guard who had killed two Jordanians within the Israeli embassy in Amman. The monarch also accused Netanyahu of treating the case as a “political show.” People in Jordan were “infuriated” by Israel’s response to the double killing, Jordanian King Abdullah II said on Thursday. Tensions between the two countries have been running at the fever pitch since Sunday evening, when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians in an apartment on embassy grounds. One of them was a teenage worker who was in the building to install furniture. Israeli officials claim that the teenager attacked the guard with a screwdriver, causing the embassy employee to open fire. The other victim was reportedly killed by accident. With the guard protected by diplomatic immunity, Israel was able to repatriate him on Monday. He and the Israeli ambassador were then warmly welcomed by Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was “happy” to see the staffer back in his homeland. “You acted well, calmly, and we also had an obligation to get you out,” Netanyahu told the guard after embracing him.


Newsline: Jordan says Israeli embassy staff can’t return unless guard is tried

Jordan will not allow the return of staff to the Israeli embassy in Amman without a guarantee that an Israeli security guard who killed two Jordanians as he allegedly defended himself from an attack will stand trial in Israel, Jordanian media reported on Thursday. Israel’s ambassador in Amman, Einat Schlein, and her staff at the embassy, left Jordan on Monday due to tensions between Israel and Jordan following the incident. The Jordanian daily al-Ghad quoted unidentified sources who said Schlein and her staff would not be permitted to return to Jordan until Israel supplied “full and complete guarantees” it would try the guard. The head of the Hashemite Royal Court, Fayez Tarawneh, told the Jordanian daily that he would continue to follow the case in accordance with international laws and diplomatic norms until justice is served. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the guard, named only as Ziv, was stabbed by 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, who was in an embassy residence installing a bedroom set Sunday evening. Ziv opened fire on Jawawdeh, killing him and a second man, Bashar Hamarneh, at the site, in self-defense, the ministry said.


Newsline: Jordan says Israeli embassy shooting was over ‘furniture delivery deadlines’

The shooting at the Israeli embassy in Amman over the weekend was the result of an argument over furniture delivery deadlines, Jordan’s public security directorate has said. According to the security directorate, a Jordanian carpenter attacked and wounded an Israeli security guard following an argument on Sunday. The guard then shot the Jordanian worker and the Jordanian landlord standing next to him, the public security directorate said. The carpenter, who was in the embassy compound for routine furniture replacement, attacked the security official from behind by stabbing him with a screwdriver, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday. Israel said the security official was slightly wounded but defended himself. The two Jordanian men later died in the hospital.