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1000s of Jordanians protest against gas deal with Israel

Jordanians gather during a protest against a government agreement to import natural gas from Israel in the capital Amman on September 30, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of people have staged a demonstration in Jordan to express their resentment over the government’s decision to sign a multi-billion-dollar gas deal with Israel.

The protesters gathered in front of Grand al-Husseini Mosque, also known as King Hussein Mosque, in downtown Amman following Friday prayers, and carried signs reading “The Enemy's Gas is Occupation” and “No to the Shameful Deal” in Arabic.

The participants in the demonstration, organized at the invitation of parties and groupings from across Jordan’s political spectrum as well as trade unions, argued that the 10-billion-dollar gas deal struck this week by the government-owned electricity company to buy Israeli-supplied natural gas runs contrary to Jordan’s national interests, calling for its immediate abolition.

“There are Jordanians of all backgrounds and factions here. We are not all part of a party or political group; we instead represent all the sons of Jordan, who refuse this deal. Our message, which we state clearly, is that this deal does not represent the Jordanian people. We will not allow it to continue. We will hold accountable whoever signed this deal,” the deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Action Front, Ali Abu Sukkar, said.

A protester, identified as Salma Nims, also said, “We are asking the government to stop this deal... We believe that the government has other alternatives for energy resources and there is no excuse to have any economic deals with the occupation (Israel).”

Jordanian protesters carry the national flags and chant slogans during a protest against a government agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in the capital Amman on September 30, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

On Thursday, students took part in a march at the University of Jordan campus to voice their opposition to the gas deal.

 “The deal is rejected by people from all walks of life. As university students, we will step up our activities. It is not something we can be silent about,” Mohammad Dmour, a member of the University of Jordan Student Union, said.

On September 26, Jordan’s National Electric Power Company signed an agreement with US-based Noble Energy and Israeli partners, which will tap the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel for the supply of approximately 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or 300 million cubic feet per day (mcf/d), over a 15-year term. Production is expected to begin around 2019 or 2020.

Jordan’s National Electric Power Company claims that the gas deal will save Jordan $600 million on a yearly basis.

The former energy minister, Muhammad Batayneh, however, questioned the terms of the agreement, saying Israel would be the main beneficiary.

“We question the wisdom behind depriving the Jordanian labor market of the job opportunities that the $10 billion marked for Israel in this agreement could create for Jordanians who are suffering from poverty and struggling to secure their livelihoods in an already burdened economy,” Jordan's Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global campaign that backs the Palestinian boycott of the Israeli regime, also stated.

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