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Kerry condemns Palestinian attacks as he meets Israel PM


John Kerry. Source: Wikipedia

John Kerry. Source: Wikipedia

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed strong support for Israel and condemned a wave of Palestinian attacks Tuesday as he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to ease weeks of violence.

Arriving with scant hopes for a major breakthrough, Kerry discussed with Netanyahu ways of calming tensions and planned to do the same later in the day with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.

“Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives, with scissors, cars,” Kerry told reporters at Netanyahu’s office ahead of talks with the Israeli prime minister.

“And it is very clear to us that terrorism, these acts of terrorism, deserve the condemnation that they are receiving and today I express my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives.”

Kerry also mentioned American victims of the attacks, with at least three US citizens — two with dual citizenship and one from Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts — killed in the wave of violence that began on October 1.

He however made no mention of resolving the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his remarks before the meeting amid US pessimism over whether significant negotiations can take place before President Barack Obama leaves office in little over a year.

After the talks with Netanyahu ended, Kerry spokesman John Kirby said that the two discussed Syria and the Islamic State group as well as “steps that can be taken to stop the violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank”.

The lack of specifics, at least publicly, regarding the Palestinians will likely disappoint Abbas, with Palestinian officials saying in the run up to Tuesday’s meeting that they were hoping Kerry would pressure Netanyahu.

Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general Saeb Erekat told AFP in an interview Monday that if nothing concrete comes out of the meetings with Kerry, the Palestinians could move forward on changing longstanding links with Israel, including security coordination.

The violence has left 92 Palestinians dead, including one Arab Israeli, as well as 17 Israelis — including the two Israeli-Americans — one American and an Eritrean.

Many of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, while others were shot during demonstrations and clashes with Israeli security forces.

– Lone-wolf attacks –
The violence continued as Kerry arrived on Tuesday, when a Palestinian rammed a vehicle into Israeli troops at a junction south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, wounding four before being shot.

Three Palestinian attackers — including a teenage girl — and an Israeli soldier died in violence on Monday.

The stabbings, shootings and car rammings have mainly been carried out by so-called “lone wolf” attackers who have defied Abbas’s calls for peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation.

Many of them have been young people, including teenagers, reflecting anger and lost hope over Israel’s occupation, the Palestinians’ fractured leadership and the complete lack of progress in peace efforts, some analysts say.

Kerry said he was “here today to talk to the prime minister about ways we can work together, all of us in the international community, to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence”.

He said he wanted “to find a way forward to restore calm and to begin to provide opportunities that most reasonable people in every part of the world are seeking for themselves and their families.”

Netanyahu has come under pressure to tighten security and on Monday he announced stricter controls on Palestinian vehicles and an increase in so-called “bypass roads,” which create separate routes for Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

During a visit on Monday to a West Bank settlement that has been the scene of numerous attacks, he also said work permits would be withdrawn for families of alleged attackers and pledged there would be “no limits” on the powers of Israeli soldiers in the territory.

Israel has already adopted the controversial policy of demolishing the homes of attackers, which it says acts as a deterrent.

Kerry has repeatedly called for both sides to take “concrete steps” to reduce tension and end provocative rhetoric, but his words have had little impact on the ground.

There is also little optimism he will be able to convince the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to resume peace talks, which broke down more than 18 months ago.

“There’s no agreement to be reached between the parties right now,” one senior US official said.

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