Blinken urges Israelis and Palestinians to 'end cycle of violence'

US secretary of state spoke separately to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Israelis and Palestinians to “end the cycle of violence”, amid rising tensions between the two sides.

Mr Blinken called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid separately on Tuesday.

Israelis and Palestinians must work to end the violence in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza “by exercising restraint and refraining from actions that escalate tensions”, the US State Department cited Mr Blinken as saying.

Recent tensions have centred on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City.

Mr Blinken told Mr Lapid of the US government's “steadfast commitment” to Israel's security and condemned recent rocket attacks from Gaza.

He told Mr Abbas that the US was committed to improving Palestinians' quality of life.

Mr Blinken called for a two-state solution in his calls.

On Tuesday, thousands of Israelis marched to a dismantled settlement deep in the occupied West Bank to call for it to be rebuilt.

Israeli security forces blocked roads to allow the march led by hardline Jewish settlers and to prevent Palestinians from reaching the area.

Palestinian residents protested against the closures and Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at youths hurling stones and burning tyres.

Palestinian medics said they treated at least eight Palestinians who were struck by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops in the adjacent West Bank village of Burqa.

Israelis have repeatedly returned to Homesh, a hilltop settlement that emerged as a symbol of settler defiance after the government dismantled it in 2005.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have increased in recent weeks, after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and military operations in the West Bank during which people were killed.

On Tuesday, Israel carried out air strikes, after Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel for the first time in months. This followed days of violence between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

More than 150 people were injured in violence involving Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday.

The unrest has raised fears of a repeat of last year, when protests in Jerusalem led to an 11-day Gaza war.

That conflict between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, killed at least 256 Palestinians in Gaza, including an unknown number of militants, and 13 people in Israel, including three foreigners and one Israeli soldier.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 8:53 AM