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A divided Jordan on government's downing of Iranian missiles

Protecting its people or protecting Israel? Divided Jordanians speak on government's downing of Iranian missiles
6 min read
19 April, 2024
The New Arab speaks to Jordanians to hear their views after their government assisted in downing Iranian drones and missiles heading for Israel.

“It was my first time seeing missiles and smelling gunpowder,” recalls Linda, a 27-year-old Jordanian lawyer of Palestinian descent. 

Last Saturday evening, Linda* was in her house in Amman when she saw the sky light up: Iran had just launched its retaliatory attack on Israel, after an Israeli strike hit the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, killing 16 people.

In response, three hundred missiles and drones were sent by the Islamic Republic, in a historic mass-scale attack targeting Israel.

Designed to send a strong message, the air attacks did not cause fatalities.

“Initially, I felt slightly shocked. But our collective first thought was that Gazan reality is much worse, so there was no room for fear. We were also very happy to see Israel getting attacked by another country, even though the damages were minimal”, continues Linda.

According to the Israeli army, 99% of the weaponry sent by Iran was intercepted, with the help of the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan also participated in countering Iran’s retaliatory attack, by shooting down the engines flying over their airspaces.

In Jordan, where more than half of the population is of Palestinian descent, some view their country’s participation in the missiles’ interception in a negative light, while others argue that the Hashemite Kingdom was only defending the sovereignty of its airspace.

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“There is a separation of opinions: some people are rejecting the criticisms and are saying that Jordan has a right to defend itself and protect its people. Others argue that Jordan was protecting Israel, that Jordan would have rather the projectiles fall on Jordanian land than reach Israel," explained 23-year-old Political Science student Dina*.

"Personally, I don’t know how to feel," she added. 

On Monday, Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh stated: “The army will respond to anything that will jeopardise the security and safety of the Kingdom and the sanctity of its airspace and territory,” thus justifying the missiles’ interception over the weekend, adding that the downing of the Iranian missiles and drones had caused no casualties among the Jordanian population.

How come we get protection at the price of Gazan’s lives?’

Nour*, a Jordanian-Palestinian activist engaged in the local BDS movement, opposes the official version, “The government claims that they were trying to keep Jordan safe, but at the end of the day they dropped missiles on their own people and on their own land.” 

This is a sentiment shared by Linda, who equally disagrees with the Jordanian government’s stance. “Taking the occupation’s army’s eyes from Gaza for just one second was enough reason to let those missiles through. And most importantly: how come we get protection at the price of Gazans' lives?”

On Monday, a Wall Street Journal report stated that Jordan had allowed Israeli jets to use its airspace during Iran’s attack, an unprecedented historical decision by the Hashemite Kingdom.

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According to Ziad Majed, a Lebanese professor at the American University of Paris and specialist in MENA region’s politics, it is still too early to doubt the Jordanian government’s version. 

“If we do accept the fact that Jordan is trying to avoid an open confrontation between Iran and Israel in its skies, the real question becomes, will they also intercept and try to destroy Israeli missiles if they cross their airspace?” Ziad said. 

“If they don’t, we will need to reassess the Jordanian position. But for now, we can’t doubt what they said. We need to see how this will evolve if Israel attacks Iran” he told The New Arab.

But for Nour, the probability that Jordan would stop any Israeli attack on Iran is highly unlikely.

“Right now, I feel like anything Israel or the US wants Jordan to do, Jordan will do automatically. Jordan is simply a puppet of Israel and the US,” she told The New Arab.

‘Delicate position’

It is not the first time that citizens of the Kingdom have criticised their government’s policies regarding Israel.

Since October 7 and the start of Israel's horrendous aggression on Gaza, Jordanians have taken to the streets of Amman to denounce the normalisation agreements between the two countries and ask for its “downfall”. 

The Wadi Araba treaty is particularly targeted. Signed in 1994, the agreement established diplomatic relations between the state of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom, as well as cooperation in a number of fields.

During the month of Ramadan, thousands of protesters gathered every evening outside the Israeli embassy in Amman to ask for its closure.

In response, a crackdown on participants has been put in place, with many arrests during and after the demonstrations.


Since the unfolding of Israel's aggression on Gaza, the Jordanian population has been divided on the role their country should play in the region. 

For Ziad Majed, Jordan is in a “delicate position.”

“While wanting to show support to the Palestinians, the country’s economy also significantly relies on international cooperation,” he told The New Arab.

If anything, according to Professor Majed, the ongoing aggression on Gaza is part and parcel of a grander Israeli far-right strategy of the “deportation of the Palestinians of the West Bank to Jordan.”

“Jordanians thus consider that they need to preserve their relationships with their Western allies to preserve their borders from potential Israeli attacks in the West Bank, which would force thousands of Palestinians to go to Jordan,” he concluded.

And while the MENA region is holding its breath in fear of further escalation between Israel and Iran, Jordanians are once again stuck between the everlasting dilemma facing the Arab world: opposing Israel to help their Palestinian brothers and sisters, or trying to keep a semblance of stability in their country. 

*Names have been changed for security reasons

Sania Mahyou is a Belgian-Moroccan freelance journalist and a student at Sciences Po Paris. She writes about political struggles, culture and minority rights in the MENA region

Follow her on Twitter: @MahyouSania