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Israel Embassy Shooting in Jordan Deepens Temple Mount Security Crisis

A shooting at the Israeli Embassy in Amman Sunday has prompted concerns that the Temple Mount crisis in Jerusalem might exacerbate Israeli-Jordanian tensions.
Jordanians march in Amman following Friday prayers on July 21 to protest new Israeli security measures at Jerusalem's holy site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.Khalil Mazraawi / AFP - Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli embassy security guard fatally shot two Jordanians in Amman Sunday after one reportedly attacked him with a screwdriver — prompting concerns that the Temple Mount security crisis might exacerbate tensions between the neighboring states.

Israeli media said Jordan had demanded to conduct an investigation and had prevented the Israeli security guard from leaving the country. Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the security guard had diplomatic immunity and that it was working with Jordanian authorities.

Jordan’s Interior Ministry declined to comment and NBC News could not immediately reach Jordan’s Ministry of Information spokesperson.

Image: Attack on Israel embassy in Amman
Jordanian security forces in front of the Israel embassy in Amman, Jordan, Monday.AHMAD ABDO / EPA

The incident appeared to be a sign that violence linked to Israel’s placement of metal detectors at the entrances to the Al Asqa mosque in Jerusalem could spread to neighboring Jordan and possibly spark a diplomatic crisis.

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets Friday to protests against Israeli policies at the shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Jordan manages the ceremonial and religious aspects of the sacred complex.

Danny Yatom, a former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, told NBC News that one solution to the crisis would be for Jordan to hand over the Israeli security guard in return for Israel’s removal of the metal detectors from the gates of Al Asqa.

“I think we have to look now at the broader picture and take into account what happened in Jordan and what is going on Temple mount and to combine those two problems,” he said.

Yatom suggested “a package deal” should be reached following discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah.

Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that the Jordanian Ambassador to Israel had held talks with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and had been asked to help resolve the situation.

Oded Eran, a former Israeli Ambassador to Jordan, told journalists that in the short term security should be stepped up outside the embassy and in the long term Jordan should “tone down their statements on Jeruslem and events at Temple Mount.”

Related: Al Aqsa Mosque Clashes: 6 Killed as Jerusalem Shrine Tensions Worsen

Eran said that while behind the scenes there was good cooperation between Israel and Jordan on security and access to water but added that “on the public level there is too much tension and unnecessary noises coming from the Jordanian government.”

He added: “Jordanians need to calm the situation in Amman.”

There are few confirmed details of the incident in the Israeli embassy in Amman, which appears to have happened in a building used as a residency for staff in the embassy compound.

According to a spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry the security guard had escorted two Jordanian workers into the building to replace furniture. The building’s landlord was also present, the spokesperson said.

At one point one of the Jordanian workers attacked the security guard from behind and began stabbing him with a screwdriver, the spokesperson said.

Jordanians march in Amman following Friday prayers on July 21 to protest the new Israeli security measures.Khalil Mazraawi / AFP - Getty Images

The security guard fought back, fatally shooting the worker and accidentally injuring the building’s landlord in the crossfire, according to the Associated Press. The landlord later died of his injuries, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

The Israeli security guard was also injured in the attack. In a statement to the Jordanian state news agency, Jordan's Public Security Directorate confirmed two Jordanian citizens had died in the shooting but added that the investigation was ongoing.

The embassy has long been a focus of anti-Israeli protests during times of Israeli-Palestinian friction, according to Reuters.

The incident came after more than a week of bloodshed in Jerusalem as tensions gave way to violence over the Holy Land’s most contested shrine.

The tensions erupted after Israel installed metal detectors at the gates in response to a shooting attack at the site that killed two Israeli policemen.

Muslim religious leaders claim Israel is trying to expand its control at the site under the guise of security, a claim Israel denies. The tensions have led to mass prayer protests and Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Three Palestinians died in clashes in Jerusalem and three Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement on Friday evening.

Image: Some 4,000 Muslims pray outside the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem as it is partially blocked by Israeli police.
Some 4,000 Muslims pray outside the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem as it is partially blocked by Israeli Police.Ilia Yefimovich / Getty Images

On Monday a Palestinian reportedly stabbed an Israeli man in the town of Petah Tikva, according to police. The 40-year-old was described as being in a moderate to severe condition, it was unclear if his injuries were life-threatening.

Netanyahu said in his statement Monday that the cabinet would reconvene following its emergency session on Sunday to "ensure security and quiet on the Temple Mount, in the Old City and in Jerusalem as a whole."

It came as Israeli media reported that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy was on his way to the region to try to defuse the growing Temple Mount crisis.

The newspaper Haaretz reported that U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt was due to arrive in Israel Monday in the Trump administration’s first foray into the crisis.

Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv, Saphora Smith reported from London and Charlene Gubash reported from Beirut.