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Jordan arrests former officials close to ruling monarchy

AMMAN, Jordan — 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 reports that 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 has long been a key Western ally and an island of stability in a turbulent region. It borders Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. Abdullah has cultivated close relations with U.S. 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, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship.