JERUSALEM – A Jordanian man on Friday attacked two Israeli port workers with a hammer seriously wounding them in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat, police and media reports said. The assailant was detained for questioning and police said they suspect the motive was terrorism.
Friday had been the suspect's first day working in Eilat through a local employment company, Israeli media reported. Eilat, which borders Jordan, hosts hundreds of Jordanians who enter the city daily to work in hotels and other industries as part of a cross-border jobs program.
Police said the two victims were hospitalized with serious injuries after the Jordanian suspect beat them with a hammer. The suspect is being questioned, police said. A police statement said the "main line of investigation is that the motive was a terrorist attack."
Police said an Eilat court imposed a gag order preventing the release of some of the case's details.
Jordan said it's aware of the incident "in which a Jordanian citizen was involved" and that it dispatched a diplomat from its embassy in Israel to Eilat to look into the issue, according to Jordan's official Petra news agency.
Jordan has been struggling with an economic downturn and rising unemployment in recent years, a result of regional crises, including long-running conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Unemployment is particularly high in southern Jordan from where many Eilat workers are recruited.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 and cooperate closely, albeit discreetly, on defusing security threats, including those posed by Islamic militants. However, the peace deal remains unpopular in Jordan, where many residents have Palestinian roots. Official ties have been frosty, mainly because of what Jordan views as Israel's harsh policies toward the Palestinians and their quest for statehood on Israeli-occupied lands.
Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, said he doubts Friday's solitary incident would affect the worker program or Israel-Jordan relations.
"Overall the two governments understand the importance of their relations to the broader security purposes of the two countries," Eran said.
Bilateral ties sank to historic lows last year after an Israeli embassy guard shot and killed two Jordanians, contending that one tried to attack him and the second was caught in the crossfire.
Jordan announced last month that it won't be renewing parts of its peace treaty with Israel involving the lease of two enclaves in Jordan to Israel. Despite the frosty ties, Israel dispatched rescue teams to assist Jordanian authorities during fatal flash floods in November.