Field Marshal Habis al-Majali

                                  FIELD MARSHAL HABIS AL-MAJALI, who
                                  has died in Amman aged 91, was the
                                  Kingdom of Jordan's greatest military
                                  commander, and led an Arab Legion battalion
                                  which inflicted a rare defeat on Israeli forces in
                                  the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.

                                  Earlier this year, a Jordanian historian
                                  revealed that in the course of this battle, which
                                  took place at Latrun in what is now Israel in
                                  May 1948, Majali's fourth Jordanian army
                                  battalion captured six Israeli soldiers, including
                                  the current Israeli prime minister, the then
                                  20-year-old Ariel Sharon.

                                  Soon after Israel signed a peace treaty with
                                  Jordan in 1994, Sharon sought to get in touch
                                  with his former captor, but was rebuffed by the
                                  retired field marshal, who determinedly
                                  refused to discuss the episode publicly.

                                  Habis al-Majali was born in Karak in 1910 to a
                                  notable family - a distant cousin, Hazza' al-
                                  Majali, was prime minister - and joined
                                  Jordan's Army in 1932.

                                  After the 1948 war, Majali was appointed
                                  commander of the royal guard, the branch of
                                  the Jordanian army charged with protecting
                                  the king, then Abdallah I. When Abdallah was
                                  assassinated as he emerged from Friday
                                  prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City
                                  of Jerusalem (then under Jordanian rule),
                                  Majali and a Muslim cleric wrapped his body
                                  in a carpet and transported it to hospital.

                                  Majali served as one of the panel of military
                                  judges in the trial of those accused of plotting
                                  Abdallah's assassination. In 1951, during the
                                  trial, Majali was among those planning to
                                  prevent Abdallah's son, the mentally infirm
                                  Talal ibn Abdallah, from becoming king.

                                  The coup plot was discovered before it could
                                  be carried out. By this time the youthful
                                  Hussein, Talal's son, was king (Talal having
                                  been peacefully deposed), and Majali was
                                  given the comparatively mild punishment of
                                  being ordered to serve as police chief in the
                                  remote southern town of Ma'an. None of the
                                  other plotters was even arrested, and Majali's
                                  role in the affair otherwise did little harm to his
                                  career: he later became assistant director of
                                  the Public Security Department.

                                  In 1956 King Hussein tightened his grip on
                                  power by dismissing the British commander of
                                  the Arab Legion, John Glubb, and appointed
                                  Majali assistant chief of staff of the Jordan
                                  armed forces. The next year Majali became
                                  chief of staff after an unsuccessful army
                                  rebellion. Majali took full command of the
                                  Jordanian army, which was by now a pillar of
                                  the regime. In 1958, he was raised to
                                  lieutenant general, Glubb's old rank.

                                  After the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel
                                  inflicted a devastating defeat on the armies of
                                  neighbouring Arab states, Majali was
                                  appointed defence minister. He was critical of
                                  the conduct of the war, in which Jordan yielded
                                  command of its forces to Egyptian officers
                                  who knew little of Jordan's landscape and the
                                  relative strengths of the Israeli and Jordanian

                                  In 1970, after King Hussein declared martial
                                  law and set up a military cabinet, Majali
                                  returned as chief of staff. Under Majali, Jordan
                                  crushed the Palestinian uprising in what
                                  became known as the Black September war.

                                  Majali was later appointed to the upper house
                                  of the Jordanian parliament.

                                  Majali's wife Bazaa' died in 1971; he is
                                  survived by their seven children.