Jordan blames Israel for escalation in Palestine as violence spreads across Levant borders

Khaled Yacoub Oweis

The National  /  April 9, 2023

Foreign Ministry says the situation will become worse unless actions are halted.

Jordan blamed Israel on Sunday for the recent escalation in Palestine and said it expected the violence to worsen, after a series of rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

“The Israeli government bears responsibility for the escalation in Jerusalem and in all occupied Palestinian territories,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sinan al-Majali said.

Increased violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which has risen since an ultra right wing government took power in Israel in late December, spread across borders this Easter weekend.

Israel bombed targets in Syria and Lebanon in the last two days after rockets were fired from the two countries.

One rocket exploded over north Jordan overnight, the Jordanian military said, highlighting the proximity of the kingdom to Iranian-backed militant groups.

Al-Majali said Israel was to blame “for the deterioration that will become worse” if it does not halt its incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque and what he described as “pressure” on worshippers.

Jordan has a long border with Israel but the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

The Hashemite monarchy, which has ruled Jordan since it was established as a British protectorate in 1921, claims custodianship of Al-Aqsa, one of the holiest places in Islam.

Also on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.

Sheikh Abdullah stressed “the importance of stopping the escalation between the Palestinians and the Israelis and working towards advancing paths of peace and stability in the region for the prosperity and prosperity of its peoples”, according to official UAE news agency Wam.

Footage in the last several days of Israeli police beating worshippers inside the mosque prompted condemnation by friends and foes. Anti-Israel rhetoric was also sharpened by pro-Iranian militant groups with bases in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

Israel says raids by its police on Al-Aqsa were meant to remove what it described as extremists armed with firecrackers and stones.

Al-Majali said Israel, as the occupying power under international law, must refrain from any measures that would undermine the sanctity of the holy place.

On Sunday, Pope Francis said the renewed violence “threatens the desired climate of trust and mutual respect needed to resume dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” at an address in the Vatican’s Saint Peter’s square.

His remarks came after Israeli jets hit military targets in Syria in response to rockets launched towards the Golan Heights, a strategic Syrian plateau overrun by Israel in 1967.

The pro-Hezbollah Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV said the rocket fire was claimed by Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, one of the most pro-Iranian Palestinian factions. The group has offices in Damascus.

Syrian official media reported explosions near Damascus. Israel said its military responded to six rockets fired overnight from Syria with artillery and air strikes, including attacks using drones.

The target, the Israeli military said, were rocket launchers, a Syrian army compound and radar systems. These systems were provided by Russia, which intervened in 2015 in the Syrian civil war in support of President Bashar Al Assad.

On Thursday, more than 30 rockets were fired towards Israel from southern Lebanon, drawing Israeli retaliation on sites linked to the Islamist movement Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s media office announced that the militant group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, received a delegation headed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday.

The two discussed “the most important developments in occupied Palestine, the course of events at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the escalating resistance in the West Bank and Gaza, in addition to general political developments in the region, the readiness of the resistance axis and the co-operation of its parties”, the media office said.

In the West Bank Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man during a confrontation at the weekend, while on Sunday, Netanyahu named two British-Israeli sisters who were killed in a gun attack in the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem there were no reports of large-scale violence on Sunday.

In 2021 ties between Jordan and Israel deteriorated after violence in Al-Aqsa led to an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, one of the main pro-Iranian groups in the Middle East.

Jordan has channels with Hamas, although it expelled most of the group’s leadership in the late 1990s. A large proportion of the kingdom’s 10 million population are of Palestinian origin.

Khaled Yacoub Oweis – Jordan correspondent of The National