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1970: King Hussein escapes gunman's bullet

King Hussein of Jordan has survived an assassination attempt after gunmen opened fire on his motorcade as it was driving near his summer palace.

The king was said to be unharmed but it is understood his driver was wounded in the attack, which took place in the town of Sweileh, 12 miles (19km) northeast of the capital, Amman.

One report said the king jumped out of his car and fired back at the attackers.

The shooting follows two days of fighting between Palestinian guerrillas and Jordanian troops in and around Amman in which up to 400 people are said to have been killed.

Stray bullet

The city is surrounded by Jordanian troops with Palestinian gunmen controlling the city centre and main routes.

Fighting has also spread to the airport and passengers flying out of Amman today have told of a porter killed when he was hit by a bullet as they got onto their plane.

Earlier Amman Radio denied reports the army commander-in-chief, Major-General Nasser Ben Jamil, the king's uncle, had been killed in the violence.

Palestinian guerrillas blame the Jordanian army for the latest flare-up in fighting, saying it is a direct result of the heavy shelling of Palestinian refugee camps.

Following the 1967 war with Israel, Jordan lost the West Bank of the Jordan River. Thousands of Palestinian refugees fled into Jordan, swelling the refugee population to two million.

From their new base in Jordan, Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organisation began launching military operations against Israel, drawing bloody reprisals that killed and injured Jordanians.

Feelings of anger among Palestinians have been exacerbated by King Hussein's involvement in Middle East peace moves which have involved talks with Israel.

The leader of Al Fatah, the largest of the Palestinian guerrilla groups, has said any Arab Head of State trying to reach a peaceful settlement with Israel will be murdered.

King Hussein has survived an attempt on his life before. When his grandfather King Abdullah was assassinated in 1951, he was hit by a stray bullet in the same attack.

Last October the government revealed details of a plot to overthrow King Hussein. Two months later 14 members of the Islamic Liberation Party were sentenced to death.

A second plot to topple the king was uncovered in March and there have been recent rumours of another US-backed plot to replace the king with his brother Crown Prince Hassan.

In Context
The trouble in Jordan worsened and on 17 September 1970 the Jordanian army launched a full scale attack against the headquarters of the Palestinian guerrillas in Amman using tanks and artillery.

It followed a declaration of martial law by King Hussein, who said he would not tolerate any further attempts to undermine his regime.

Worse was to follow in what became known as Black September, when Yasser Arafat ordered the overthrow of King Hussein's "Fascist government". Syria, Iraq and Israel quickly became involved.

The US 6th Fleet moved into the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union began leaning heavily on its ally Syria to pull out and the PLO guerrillas were gradually driven out of the suburbs of Amman.

Yasser Arafat agreed to a ceasefire on 25 September. Under the terms of the agreement his troops were to withdraw from Jordanian towns and cities and recognise the king's authority.

The fighting continued into 1971, however, when King Hussein finally struck a decisive blow against the Palestinians, driving them out of their remaining bases and expelling them from the country. The Palestinian extremist group Black September was named after the month in which the Palestinians were driven out of Jordan.


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