Israel won’t prosecute embassy guard over Jordan shootings: sources

Security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy in the residential Rabiyeh neighbourhood of the Jordanian capital Amman following an 'incident'. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Israel won’t prosecute embassy guard over Jordan shootings: sources

JERUSALEM: Israel will not prosecute a guard from its embassy in Amman who killed two Jordanians in July, as had long been demanded by the kingdom, two Israeli sources said on Sunday.
Instead, the Foreign Ministry and Shin Bet security agency will review protocols surrounding the actions taken by the guard, and his conduct, “and share the results with the Jordanians,” a diplomatic source said.
The killings led to a rift between the countries, which both said last week had been mended.
Jordan said Israel had apologized for the embassy deaths, would compensate the victims’ next of kin and “implement and follow up legal measures” in the case.
Jordanian officials were not immediately available to comment on the diplomatic source’s account. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman declined comment.
Amman had previously demanded a homicide trial for the guard, whose repatriation under diplomatic immunity and hero’s welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angered Jordanians.
Israel said in the aftermath of the incident that the guard had acted in self-defense, shooting a workman who stabbed and wounded him lightly, and that the second Jordanian was killed by stray fire.
Asked on Sunday whether criminal prosecution of the guard was possible, a second Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “No way.”
The guard’s prospects of remaining in the Israeli secret service may be in doubt, however, after a Jordanian newspaper published his name and photograph.
Other fine-print elements of the reconciliation deal were designed to limit legal culpability for Israel, the diplomatic source said.
Israel would not pay damages to the next of kin directly, but instead provide a $5 million lump sum for the Jordanian government to disburse as compensation, that source said. The money is also meant to cover the needs of the family of a Jordanian shot dead by an Israeli border guard in 2014.
Two sources close to the families confirmed the payout sum.
The Israeli diplomatic source said the Netanyahu government had not apologized for the shooting of the alleged assailant but rather “voiced regret.”
On Thursday, a Jordanian government spokesman said Israel had sent a memorandum stating its “deep regrets and apologies.”
Yet Israel distinguishes between the two expressions of contrition, seeing in the latter a potential admission of guilt.
A deal reconciling Israel and Turkey over the killing of 10 pro-Palestinian Turks who tried to breach the Gaza blockade in 2010 included Israel voicing regret and paying $20 million into a Turkish fund that compensated the bereaved and injured.
In return, Ankara agreed not to seek the criminal prosecution of Israeli marines who raided the activists’ ship.
Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
Three years later, during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, relations were strained when Israeli secret agents were caught spraying poison into the ear of Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on an Amman street.
The assassination team was repatriated in return for an antidote for Meshaal and the release of Hamas’s spiritual leader, Ahmed Yassin, from an Israeli jail.
On Saturday night in a Twitter posting, Netanyahu expressed appreciation for behind-the-scenes efforts by US envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt to help end the crisis with Jordan.


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 18 December 2018
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”