US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting on October 2, 2015 in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting on October 2, 2015 in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly © Kena Betancur - AFP/File
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting on October 2, 2015 in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly
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AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Kerry says 'critical' to halt Israeli-Palestinian violence

US Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday urged Palestinians and Israelis to halt all incitement and violence, kicking off a flurry of diplomatic activity through talks with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu aimed at ending the escalating unrest.

The meeting came as another Israeli was wounded in a new knife attack west of Jerusalem, the latest in a spate of violence that first erupted on October 1 and has sparked fears of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

"It is absolutely critical to end all incitement, to end all violence and to find a road forward to build the possibility, which is not there today, for a larger process," Kerry told journalists, with Netanyahu beside him as the two leaders began talks.

"Today, we, you and I, can rekindle that process," Kerry told the Israeli leader. "We've been at this, we know each other well, I believe we have the ability to make a difference."

Kerry said he had spoken on the phone with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas over the past 24 hours, and "believe people want this to de-escalate".

"So, let's go to work and see what we can do," said Kerry, who will also hold talks with Abbas at the end of the week.

Separately, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will meet Kerry and Netanyahu later Thursday in Berlin.

The EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini is also in the German capital to meet the Israeli premier Thursday, before holding talks with Abbas "in the coming days".

UN chief Ban Ki-moon had said Wednesday that he was "not optimistic" after he spoke to both sides to get them to pull back from a "dangerous escalation".

"Our most urgent challenge is to stop the current wave of violence and avoid any further loss of life," said Ban, who is due to meet King Abdullah II Thursday.

Netanyahu has so far shown little appetite for compromise.

In separate meetings with Ban, Chancellor Angela Merkel and once again ahead of talks with Kerry, he accused Abbas of fanning the flames and rejected allegations that Israel has used excessive force.

"There is no question that this wave of attacks was driven directly by the incitement, the incitement of Hamas, the incitement of the Islamist movement in Israel and the incitement, I am sorry to say, from president Abbas and the Palestinian Authority," said Netanyahu.

"I think it is time for the international community to say clearly to president Abbas: stop spreading lies about the state of Israel," added Netanyahu, who has stirred up controversy and online mockery over his claim that a Palestinian religious leader gave Adolf Hitler the idea to exterminate Jews.

The claim led Merkel, his host in Berlin, to insist on her country's culpability in the Holocaust. "Germany abides by its responsibility for the Holocaust," she said, standing next to Netanyahu at a press conference.

- New stabbing attack -

In the latest in a series of stabbings, an Israeli was wounded in a knife attack west of Jerusalem on Thursday before police shot and "neutralised" the two assailants, police said.

The male attackers had attempted to board a bus in Beit Shemesh but were prevented from doing so by passengers. They then stabbed a 25-year-old Jewish passer-by close to the bus station before being fired on by officers.

One of the alleged attackers was killed while the second was in critical condition.

Since October 1, at least 49 Palestinians and one Israeli Arab have been killed, including alleged attackers. Eight Israelis have been killed in attacks.

In his behind-closed-doors report to the Security Council Wednesday, Ban delivered a sobering assessment of prospects for a return to calm, according to a diplomat, saying there was no time to waste to press for a de-escalation and pull the sides back from the brink.

The UN chief presented a report prepared by his legal experts on international protection after the Palestinians called for the deployment of an observer force in east Jerusalem.

The report, seen by AFP, outlines 17 cases -- from Trieste after World War II to Kosovo in 1999 -- when the Security Council stepped in and set up special regimes to guarantee the protection of civilians.

In a letter to the council, Ban said the report should not be seen as an "options paper" for addressing the crisis but added that it could be useful in "informing future work on this subject".

- Al-Aqsa flashpoint -

Abbas meanwhile called on Israel to strictly respect rules governing Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters at the compound in September sparked the current wave of violence.Violent protests have also erupted in east Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"The continued occupation and aggression against Christian and Muslim holy sites in east Jerusalem, particularly against Al-Aqsa, opens the door to a religious conflict, which has unfortunately started," said Abbas.

Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Abbas of incitement by suggesting Israel wants to change the status quo of the compound, sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Muslims fear Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray to avoid provoking tensions.

Netanyahu says he has no intention of changing the rules.

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