By Lesley Wroughton
US Secretary of State John Kerry began a one-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday by describing a wave of Palestinian knife and car ramming attacks as terrorism that must be condemned.
At the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kerry said they would discuss ways to work together to restore calm. With US-backed Palestinian statehood negotiations frozen since 2014, Netanyahu said there could be no peace while an ‘onslaught of terror’ continued.
Shortly before Kerry and Netanyahu convened in Jerusalem, a Palestinian drove his car into three Israeli soldiers and a paramilitary border policeman along a road in the occupied West Bank, injuring all four, the army said.
Israeli forces shot and wounded the driver.
“It is very clear to us that the terrorism, these acts of terrorism which have been taking place, deserve the condemnation that they are receiving,” Kerry told reporters, with Netanyahu at his side.
“And today I express my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation,” Kerry said.
He was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later in the day in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have accused Israel of using excessive force to quell attacks, saying that in many cases assailants could have been stopped and detained without being shot and killed. They have also described the violence as a consequence of Israel’s occupation and related policies.
Since Oct 1, 19 Israelis and an American have been killed in Palestinian attacks. Eighty-six Palestinians have been killed, some while carry out assaults and others in clashes with Israeli forces. Many of them were teenagers.
The bloodshed has been driven in part by Muslim agitation over stepped-up Jewish visits to East Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound – Islam’s third holiest site and also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical temples.
In Abu Dhabi on Monday, Kerry said Washington had ideas “for how things could proceed” to try to stem the violence. But he cautioned: “People aren’t in the mood for concessions”.