Jordan arrests former officials close to ruling monarchy for ‘security reasons’

Jordan’s state news agency said Saturday that two former senior palace officials “and others” have been arrested for “security reasons.”

The Petra news agency denied initial reports that said Prince Hamzah, the half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, had been detained or placed under house arrest.

The Petra report said Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, the former royal envoy to Saudi Arabia, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, the former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah also previously served as planning minister and finance minister.

The agency did not provide further details or name the others who were arrested.

Jordan informed Israel “the situation is under control” and there was no danger to the stability of the Hashemite kingdom, the Walla news site reported.

The message was relayed by Jordanian officials to their Israeli counterparts, the report said.

Jordan has long been a key Western ally and an island of stability in a turbulent region. It borders Israel, the West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II gives a speech during the inauguration of the 19th Parliament’s non-ordinary session, in Amman, Jordan, December 10, 2020. (Yousef Allan/The Royal Hashemite Court via AP)

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. Abdullah has cultivated close relations with US and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic State group.

The country’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Jordan, with a population of around 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, but relations have been tense in recent years, including in past weeks, partially due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

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