Rumors ran rampant in Jordan over the past few weeks on the nature of the mysterious archeological dig in the city of Ajloun. Many believed the authorities found gold or other treasures, but Jordanian Army Chief of Staff Mashal Mohammad Al-Zaben dropped a bombshell on Tuesday when he revealed what was really found there - hidden Israeli spying devices and explosives.
According to the Jordanians, the dig was a part of an ongoing activity for the past year and a half to remove and neutralize espionage equipment and explosives planted by Israel decades ago in different parts of the Hashemite Kingdom.
Most of the Israeli equipment and explosives were neutralized by Jordan in the past year and a half, but this case was different.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Al-Zaben said an Israeli team was working in Ajloun to remove spying equipment planted there in 1969, during the War of Attrition. The Israeli team, he said, was overseen by the Jordanian army.
"The Israelis brought all of the necessary equipment, both the electronic equipment and the equipment needed for digging. The controlled explosions were done in the late hours of the night, and no damage was caused," Al-Zaben said
The unusual press conference took place at the Jordanian prime minister's residence. The prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, was present, as was Interior Minister Hussein Majali and government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani.
According to the Jordanian military chief, the Israeli espionage equipment and explosives were first uncovered on February 4, 2013, when an explosion occurred in a road in the Mafraq region, causing damage in a 400 meter radius from the site of explosion.
"The military investigated the circumstances at the scene of the explosion and it turned out it was caused by an explosive that goes off when it's in movement. This explosive was part of Israeli spying devices buried underground decades ago," he said.
The Jordanian army then scanned the kingdom, finding five sites with similar espionage instruments buried 1.5-2 meters underground.
Amman asked Jerusalem for information on the sites the instruments were located at: How they worked, what type of instruments they were and how much explosives were planted near these instruments.
"After we received the information that the espionage devices were planted 45 years ago, we started handling the sites with the means at our disposal, mostly in unpopulated areas. It took over a year and a half due to the difficulties in locating these places as a result of natural obstructions and how deep the instruments were. One of them, for example, was on the road from Amman to Baghdad and it was destroyed a year ago," the Jordanian army chief said.
"The last site in which spying devices were found is on a main street, close to the Ajloun University and some inhabited areas. The aforementioned device is connected to one of the communication lines of the former Second Division. The amount of explosives buried alongside these instruments was large and we could not assess the damage the explosion would cause," Al-Zaben continued.
"This left the Jordanian army with no choice but to turn to the Israelis to do the work themselves in a way that keeps the residents in the area safe and does not cause damage to university structures and nearby homes," he said.
Jordanian Prime Minister Ensour insinuated that should additional sites with espionage devices that Israel failed to report on are found, it could badly impact the relations between the two countries.