Blinken urges Israel-Palestine to calm as violence soars Liberal-news

CAIRO (AP) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint and ease tensions amid an upsurge in violence that has sent the region on edge.

Speaking in Cairo just hours before a two-day visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank, Blinken said it was imperative that both sides work to reduce tensions that have escalated since last week in what he called “a new and horrible escalation of violence” and drew harsh responses from everyone.

“We will encourage the parties to take steps to calm things down,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. “There is no question that this is a very difficult time.”

He repeated US condemnations of militant attacks against Israelis, noting that “we generally deplore the loss of innocent civilian life.”

The latest wave of violence erupted last week with an Israeli military raid on a militant stronghold in the West Bank city of Jenin last week that killed 10 people, most of them militants, and a Palestinian shooting at a Jewish settlement in the east. of Jerusalem who killed seven. israelis.

And, on Monday, shortly before Blinken’s arrival, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in the city of Hebron, bringing the number of Palestinians killed in January to 35.

The violence comes after months of Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank, which were sparked after a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the spring of 2022 that killed 19 people.

But it spiked this month during the first weeks of the far-right new government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to take a tough stance against the Palestinians and speed up settlement construction.

Blinken’s trip follows visits to Israel by President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and CIA Director Willian Burns. But the Blinken meetings will be the highest-level US engagement with Netanyahu since he resumed power last month and the first since the rise in violence.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry shake hands after their joint press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on January 30. of 2023.

Khaled Desouki/Pool via AP

The visit, which was planned before the outbreak, was already expected to be fraught with tension over differences between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government, which is made up of settlement supporters.

After the Jenin raid, the Palestinians said they would cancel security coordination with Israel, and after attacks on Israelis intensified, Israel said it would reinforce Jewish settlements in the West Bank, among other measures.

Israeli Army Radio reported Sunday night that the government was also ready to approve a rebel outpost deep in the West Bank and speed up the approval of other small settlements.

Israel also arrested 42 Palestinians, some relatives of the Jerusalem attacker, in its investigation of the attack. And National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he ordered authorities to demolish illegally built Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem in response to the attack.

Palestinians believe that Israeli reprisals, including the demolition of the homes of the attackers’ families, amount to collective punishment and are illegal under international law.

The turmoil has added another topic to Blinken’s extensive diplomatic agenda in Jerusalem, which was already scheduled to include Russia’s war against Ukraine, tensions with Iran, and the crises in Lebanon and Syria; all of which weigh heavily on the US-Israel relationship.

Easing tensions on those issues, or at least avoiding new ones, is critical to Blinken’s mission despite Netanyahu’s opposition to two of Biden’s top Middle East priorities: reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But, with both issues stalled and little hope that negotiations will resume, the administration is simply trying to keep the concepts on life support.

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