Blinken urges Israel, Palestinians to 'end the cycle of violence'

In separate calls with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Blinken stressed "the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to end the cycle of violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza by exercising restraint and refraining from actions that escalate tensions," the State Department said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem, on 25 May 2021. Picture: Ronen Zvulun/AFP

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday to "end the cycle of violence" after a sharp escalation in tensions between the two sides in recent days.

In separate calls with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Blinken stressed "the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to end the cycle of violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza by exercising restraint and refraining from actions that escalate tensions," the State Department said.

He also urged both sides to exercise "restraint" and refrain "from actions that escalate tensions" including at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, but known to Jews as the Temple Mount -- Judaism's holiest place -- in Jerusalem's Israeli-annexed Old City.

In his call with Lapid, Blinken reiterated the US government's "steadfast commitment" to Israel's security and condemned recent rocket attacks from Gaza.

In his call with Abbas, Blinken affirmed the US commitment to improving Palestinians' quality of life.

But with both leaders, Blinken urged for a two-state solution.

The State Department announced Tuesday evening that Yael Lempert, assistant secretary for near eastern affairs, would travel to Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt for talks aimed at "reducing tensions" in the region.

Her trip will last from Tuesday until April 26.

Israel carried out its first air strike on the Gaza Strip in months early Tuesday, in response to a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave after a weekend of violence around the Jerusalem holy site.

The strikes come after weeks of mounting violence, with a total of 23 Palestinians and Arab-Israelis killed, including assailants who targeted Israelis in four deadly attacks.

The violence, coinciding with the Jewish Passover festival as well as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, has sparked fears of a repeat of last year's events, when similar circumstances sparked an 11-day war that levelled parts of Gaza.