Rage in Jordan Grows Over Judge’s Killing

Eyewitness describes skirmish with soldiers that resulted in shooting.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian human rights groups have started collecting as many eyewitnesses as possible regarding the incident in which a Jordanian judge was shot to death on the Israeli side of the Allenby Bridge crossing Monday.

The circumstances of the fatal shooting remain unclear.

According to testimony by a Palestinian woman from Hebron who was on the bus, obtained by Haaretz, the bus crossed the border or the river and arrived at the Israeli checkpoint. According to procedures, all the passengers alight from the bus and leave their belongings on it, and then a soldier gets on and makes a preliminary check.

At this point the woman took her children to the adjacent bathroom and returned after a few minutes. She said she saw the judge smoking a cigarette. According to her a soldier asked him to get back on the bus saying they were running late, but he insisted on finishing his cigarette. The soldier asked him again and he refused again. An argument broke out when the soldier pushed him to get on the bus. He then pushed the soldier, and the soldier pushed him back. Another soldier at the position pulled out his weapon and pointed it at the judge, and a fight broke out between the two of them. Then one of the soldiers pushed him to the ground and shot three bullets at him, two of which hit him, she said.

Mohammed Zayad, a resident of Kalkilya who was also on the bus, also attested in a conversation with Haaretz that the judge was sprawled on the ground and no one hurried to assist him.

“There was a big eruption in the place. The judge’s body was lying on the asphalt for several minutes until a Magen David Adom team arrived and pronounced him dead, and his body was covered,” he said.

The two eyewitness accounts categorically reject the claim that the judge tried to snatch a weapon or shouted “Allah is great” before he was shot and killed. Zayad said that before they reached the Israeli checkpoint the judge acted normally, and he did not look nervous or behave in a strange way.

At the Palestinian center for human rights in Ramallah, it was reported that immediately after the incident the soldiers removed all the passengers again, and conducted a thorough inspection and investigated the passengers if they knew the judge.

One of the remaining open questions is the reason he decided to travel to the West Bank, because his father Ala Adin Zaeter said that he had parted from him the same morning at the entrance of the hospital in Amman where the judge’s 5-year-old son was hospitalized in very serious condition. According to the family, they think he sought to go to Nablus to raise money for his son to be treated abroad, as he felt his son’s life was in imminent danger and was seeking any way to save him.

An atmosphere of rage and anger in Jordan grew over the past two days, even after Israel’s official apology and expression of regret. The Jordanian parliament held two emergency sessions regarding the incident, giving the government a five-day extension to carry out its decisions, mainly to recall the Jordanian ambassador and to release the prisoner Ahmed Akasma, who carried out the 1997 attack at Naharayim, killing seven Israeli schoolchildren. He is serving a life sentence.

Jordanian government sources said it will not take any steps until it receives a copy of the report on the investigation by the joint committee set up between the two countries.

Hundreds of lawyers protested, while protests went on at university campuses around Jordan. The lawyers demanded the government take operative steps against Israel and not suffice with condemnations. Some called on reneging on the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, and expelling the Israeli ambassador.

Jordanian parliamentary factions threatened to submit a vote of no-confidence if their demands were not met. The Jordanian council of judges issued a sharp statement, demanding that the Israeli government investigates the incident in an independent and transparent manner, and to quickly reach the truth and guarantee the family’s rights.

The story also became the main subject of social networks in Jordan, and criticism reached the royal palace. Some appealed to King Abdullah, demanding he take a position in wake of the incident and make decisions in line with public opinion in the country.

The Allenby border crossing, where Jordanian judge Raed Zueter was killed by IDF fire earlier in March.Credit: Lior Mizrahi

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