Jordanian riot police on Friday forcibly dispersed hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters trying to reach a border zone with the Israeli-occupied West Bank as thousands held anti-Israel demonstrations across the country, witnesses said.
Jordan is worried that a regional widening of violence arising from the war between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza could have repercussions for itself given that a large percentage of its population are Palestinians.
Jordan lost the West Bank including East Jerusalem to Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and the Palestinian territory was seeing a rise in violence between Palestinians and the Israeli military and settlers even before the Gaza conflict erupted.
Witnesses said police fired tear gas to halt about 500 demonstrators who had reached a security checkpoint outside the capital Amman on a highway leading to a main border crossing.
The interior ministry had issued a ban against holding anti-Israel marches in the sensitive border area, where it said the Jordan river valley was closed to protesters but that licensed protests elsewhere would be allowed.
The outpouring of Arab anger against Israel over its siege and bombardment of Gaza retaliating for a devastating cross-border Hamas attack also fuelled a large rally on Friday in downtown Amman and in many of the kingdom’s main cities.
Several thousand protesters near downtown Amman chanted slogans in support of Hamas and demanded the government close the Israeli embassy and scrap the 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
In the cities of Irbid and Zarqa, thousands took to the streets carrying Hamas flags, vowing revenge against Israel and calling on the militant movement, which rules Gaza, to escalate strikes.
The peace treaty remains widely unpopular among Jordanians who see normalisation with Israel as a sellout of the rights of their Palestinian brethren seeking to establish a state in Israeli-occupied territories.
The Israeli embassy, where protesters gather daily, has long been a flashpoint of anti-Israel protests at times of turmoil in the Palestinian territories.