Jordanian Islamists chant anti-Israel slogans in Amman.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Jordanian cities on Friday, calling on the government to scrap its peace deal with Israel following escalating violence at the Al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem.
"Death to Israel," crowds chanted in several cities, with activists demanding that Israel's embassy in Amman be closed.
"Why are you keeping the embassy of the Jews? It should be demolished with everyone in it," Sheikh Hamam, head of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood party, said in central Amman.
Jordan recalled its ambassador from Israel on Wednesday - the first time it has taken such action since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1994, denouncing what they called "violations" at the Al-Aksa mosque.
Tensions over the compound, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest place in Judaism, have fueled repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in recent weeks, culminating in a one-day closure of the mosque last month.
Violence flared again in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday.
Jordan blames Israel for the crisis, saying the rapid expansion of Jewish settlements on disputed land coupled with vocal demands by Jewish nationalists for greater access to the Jerusalem holy site have inflamed passions.
Israel has accused the Palestinian leadership in the adjacent West Bank of inciting the violence.
"Al-Aksa needs liberation and all of the people of Jordan are ready to wage jihad (holy war) to liberate our sacred sites," demonstrators chanted in Amman.
Others sang a song that calls on Palestinians to "run down settlers in the streets, chase them everywhere and assault them with sticks and stones."
Jordanian officials fear wider unrest in the West Bank could spill over into their own country, where a majority of the population are descendants of Palestinians who fled across the river Jordan following the creation of Israel in 1948.
Some clashes broke out on Friday when dozens of youths from the sprawling Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Amman tried to reach a main highway, with security forces pushing them back, witnesses said.
Jordan, which is a staunch US ally, has suggested the crisis over Jerusalem could imperil the 1994 peace treaty - a prospect that Amman never raised during much bloodier Israeli-Palestinian flare-ups, such as the July-August Gaza war.
Israel has given repeated assurances it understands Jordan's concerns and does not seek to alter the status quo in the Muslim holy sites of Jerusalem. King Abdullah's Hashemite monarchy has been custodian of the sites since 1924, paying for their upkeep and deriving part of its legitimacy from the role.