Kerry arrives in Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Friday 20/11/2015
Better remind Kerry: Violence has left 92 Palestinians dead

JERUSALEM - US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned a wave of Palestinian attacks as he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday in his latest bid to ease nearly two months of violence.

Arriving with scant hopes for a major breakthrough, Kerry said he would discuss with Netanyahu and later Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah ways of calming tensions.

"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 -- killed in the wave of violence that began on October 1.

After meeting Netanyahu, Kerry will hold talks with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin while in Jerusalem, then separately with Abbas.

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.

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 West Bank.

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.

On Monday, an Israeli soldier was stabbed to death while another was seriously wounded in the same attack at a petrol station on the edge of the occupied West Bank. The assailant was shot dead at the scene.

Earlier in the day, two teenage girls attacked an elderly man in Jerusalem and were shot by security forces, police said, the first stabbing in the city for nearly two weeks.

Security camera footage appeared to show the girls -- apparently cousins aged 14 and 16 -- in school uniform chasing a man with scissors.

One of the girls was killed and another seriously wounded.

The man they targeted was identified as a 70-year-old Palestinian, possibly confused for an Israeli Jew, who suffered light injuries.

In another attack, a 16-year-old Palestinian was shot dead when trying to stab an Israeli soldier near Huwara south of Nablus.

An 18-year-old Palestinian woman, identified by medical sources as Samah Abdullah, was shot and severely wounded in the same attack, apparently by accident.