AMMAN –– The Jordanian judge who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Monday at the King Hussein Bridge did not try to seize the gun of a soldier as Israelis claim, an eyewitness at the scene said Tuesday.

Mohammad Sharif Zaid told The Jordan Times over the phone from Bethlehem that he was standing just metres away from Raed Zuaiter, a judge at Amman Court of First Instance, when the incident happened.

He recalled that the shooting took place after Israeli forces carried out a search of passengers of the bus that was carrying them to the West Bank.  

When most passengers went on board except for three, the 38-year-old judge, a young Palestinian woman and himself, an Israeli occupation soldier moved towards the bus and pushed Zuaiter, Zaid said.

“The judge and the soldiers had a verbal argument at the entrance of the inspection room,” he added, elaborating that another soldier pushed Zuaiter again, causing him to fall on the ground. 

Zaid recounted that the judge stood up and reacted to the affront to his dignity by pushing the soldier, but the Israeli pointed his gun at him and shot a bullet that missed him. 

The soldier took aim again, shooting Zuaiter in the chest as another soldier fired two more bullets that penetrated the judge’s body. 

Asked if Zuaiter attempted to seize the weapon of the Israeli soldier, the witness said it did not happen. 

“It is not true that he tried to take the soldier’s gun,” he added. 

“Passengers were shocked, and started crying and screaming,” according to Zaid, who added that the incident took place at around 8am. 

Tens of Israeli soldiers surrounded the bus to prevent passengers from getting off, while the judge was still bleeding, the witness said, noting that medics arrived at the scene nearly half-an-hour later and tried to perform CPR on the judge, but he was already dead. 

Later on, investigators arrived and started interrogating passengers individually. 

“‘Do you know this person or do you have any relationship with him?’ they asked me and others,” Zaid said, adding that the investigators asked the passengers to tell what happened from the beginning. 

They asked about the contents of Zuaiter’s luggage and then decided to have it destroyed with explosives without checking its contents, he recounted, noting that the bus was allowed to leave for the West Bank at 2pm.  

Reuters reported Monday that the Israeli military said Zuaiter, a judge with a PhD in law, had tried to seize a soldier’s gun at the King Hussein Bridge — known to Israelis as Allenby Bridge — and that troops had then shot him.

The killing of the Jordanian judge triggered anger among Jordanians.