AMMAN  - Jordanian unions held a strike on Sunday to protest fuel price rises, two days after thousands of demonstrators in Amman called for the king to go, an official told AFP. “All 15 unions except the nurses’ union stopped working between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm (0800-1100 GMT) on Sunday,” said Mahmud Abu Ghunayma, head of Jordan’s 15-member professional associations body. “This is a message to the government, to tell them that the situation is snowballing and the king must intervene to reverse this decision (to raise fuel prices),” he said. The head of the doctors’ union, Ahmed al-Armuti, said the strike had excluded “emergency sectors,” including midwifery and nursing.

The teachers’ union told AFP it striked on Sunday, with spokesman Ayman al-Akur saying “the strike was observed by 70 to 75 percent of schools across the country”. Thousands of people staged an unprecedented protest on Friday calling for King Abdullah II to go, expressing anger at the price hikes, which will see the cost of household gas rise by 53 percent. Calling for the king’s overthrow is punishable by imprisonment so the slogans were a major departure for a kingdom previously spared protests on the scale of other countries swept up in the Arab Spring. Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur on Saturday defended the price hike, saying the decision was “unavoidable” given the country’s $5 billion (3.9 billion euro) budget deficit, and that the measures would save $42 million by year-end. Initial protests on Wednesday and Thursday against the announcement descended into violence, killing one person and injuring 71 others, police said.