Following high-level talks in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for “urgent steps” to de-escalate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After meeting Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and foreign minister in Cairo, Washington’s top diplomat travelled to Jerusalem on the second leg of his Middle East tour.
Israel is reeling from a Friday attack that killed seven civilians outside a synagogue in annexed east Jerusalem, just one day after the deadliest army raid in years in the occupied West Bank killed ten Palestinians.
Following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken, however, urged “all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to de-escalate”.
“We want to make sure that there’s an environment in which we can, I hope, at some point, create the conditions where we can start to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he said
Israeli troops killed a Palestinian driver in the West Bank on Monday, according to both sides, with the army claiming the car hit a soldier’s leg before speeding away.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 35 Palestinian adults and children since the beginning of the year, including attackers, militants, and civilians.
Six Israeli civilians, including a child, and one Ukrainian civilian were killed during the same time period. All were killed in the attack outside the synagogue in an east Jerusalem settlement on Friday.
The US has traditionally led Middle East diplomacy, and Egypt, which has relations with Israel, has long served as a mediator in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Following a “very candid” discussion with Netanyahu, Blinken is scheduled to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
The Blinken envoy will also visit Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
Abbas met with CIA Director William Burns in Ramallah late Sunday to discuss the “dangerous developments,” according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. The US embassy did not respond.
Blinken’s long-planned visit has taken on new urgency as the violence escalates. The fatal shooting in east Jerusalem was preceded by Israel’s bloodiest operation in the West Bank in years.
Ten people were killed in a raid targeting Islamic Jihad operatives in the densely populated Jenin refugee camp on Thursday. In response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave, the military later struck sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s cabinet has vowed a tough response and has moved to punish “terrorist families who support terrorism” with home demolitions and other measures.
His government intends to revoke the relatives of the attackers’ rights to social security benefits, as well as take steps to make it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain permits to carry firearms.