Jordan faces rising protests over Gaza war

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Jordanian security forces have arrested people who rioted at a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Amman, the police said on Sunday, as authorities seek to contain the effects of the GazaIsrael war in the kingdom.

Riot police also dispersed an overnight demonstration at a main intersection in the Rabiah neighbourhood in Amman, where the Israeli embassy is located. Two members of the country’s professional unions were arrested, as well as dozens of protesters, residents said.

The intersection, as well as the Baqaa camp, just north of Amman, has been a main centre of unrest linked to the war, with rallies in support of Gaza having renewed over the last week.

The Internal Security Directorate said that authorities will deal firmly with anyone who undermines the security of society.

It said an unspecified number of men were arrested in Baqaa after “committing rioting and sabotage”, including burning tires and throwing stones at passing cars.

Authorities have been allowing limited anti-Israeli protests in Jordan since the war started on October 7. At the same time, they have sought preserve the country’s image as a bastion of stability aligned with the West, despite a grass roots boycott of European and American goods and services.

But security forces have stepped up arrests of figures seen as stirring unrest, particularly those linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, diplomats and rights groups said. Two members of the Islamic Action Front Party, the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood were detained earlier this weekend.

Hamas, the militant group that started the current war, is linked to the group, although Iran has become its main military supporter in the past two decades.

Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel and is dependent on the US for aid and security. A large proportion of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin.

Nonetheless, there has been widespread outrage at the Israeli invasion of Gaza among Jordanian ‘east bankers’ – the tribes and clans who were present in what became the British protectorate of Transjordan in 1921.

Over the last week, pro-Gaza rallies have picked up in Jordan, with demonstrators calling for the abrogation of the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. The treaty is a cornerstone of the country’s foreign policy, a prerogative of King Abdullah II, who holds all significant powers in the kingdom.

A resident of Baqaa, who did not want to be named, said that young men carrying stones closed the main motorway to Amman, which runs parallel to the camp, forcing motorists to take side roads that go through the camp.

The camp is home to 140,000 registered Palestinian refugees, many of whom have Jordanian nationality. It is also a reservoir of skilled, blue collar labour in Jordan.

In Rabieh, a resident said security forces have been pressuring the demonstrators to prevent them from keeping up the protests past midnight.

“They don’t want round the clock rallies,” she said.

The demonstrations have been mainly organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, although non-brotherhood sympathisers have been showing up. The group, unlike in most of the rest of the Arab Middle East, is tolerated in Jordan.

Updated: March 31, 2024, 9:11 PM

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