US Secretary of State John Kerry shared his “deep concern” Saturday over spiraling violence between Israelis and Palestinians during telephone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Mahmud Abbas.
The latest clashes killed two more Palestinians in the Gaza strip hours earlier. There were also two stabbings outside Jerusalem’s Old City and more violent confrontations in the West Bank.
Kerry called Netanyahu and Abbas separately “to express his deep concern over the recent wave of violence and offer his support for efforts to restore calm as soon as possible,” a State Department statement said.
“He reiterated the importance of strongly condemning violence and combating incitement, and taking affirmative steps to reduce tensions.”
Separately, the two leaders each pointed the finger at the other for the escalating violence.
Netanyahu said he told Kerry he expected the Palestinian Authority to stop its “wild and mendacious incitement, which is causing the current wave of terrorism.”
And Abbas said he reiterated the need for Israeli authorities to stop giving cover to “settler provocations, carried out under the army’s protection.”
A rocket fired by Gaza militants hit southern Israel Saturday without causing casualties, hours after clashes along the border saw Israeli forces kill seven Palestinians.
Rioting has shaken annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, with Palestinians throwing stones and firebombs at Israeli security forces, who have responded with live fire, rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.
Kerry “stressed the importance of upholding the status quo in word and deed at the al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and of preventing inflammatory rhetoric and actions that will increase tensions,” the State Department said, referring to the site revered by both Muslims and Jews.
The United States “will remain engaged in efforts to restore calm,” it added, noting Kerry was monitoring the situation “closely.”