U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to ease tensions amid a spike in violence that has put the region at risk, AP reports.
The bloodshed has alarmed the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who is trying to find common ground with the new government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking on arrival at Israel International Airport near Tel Aviv after a brief visit to Egypt, Blinken said he arrived at a watershed moment and condemned Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens, but also called for restraint in response, saying all civilian casualties were regrettable.
"To take an innocent life in an act of terrorism is always a heinous crime, but to target people outside their place of worship is especially shocking," he said, referring to Friday's attack that killed seven people, many of them leaving a synagogue in Jerusalem.
"We condemn it in the strongest terms," he said. "We also condemn the subsequent terrorist attack in Jerusalem on Saturday in which a father and son were wounded. And we condemn all those who celebrate these and any other acts of terrorism that take innocent lives, no matter who the victim is or what they believe. Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer and acts of retaliatory violence against civilians are never justified."
The latest outbreak of violence began last week with a raid by the Israeli military in the West Bank city of Jenin that killed 10 people, most of them Palestinians, followed by a shooting in a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem that killed seven Israelis.
Blinken said both sides need to work to de-escalate tensions, which have risen sharply since last week in a new and terrifying surge of violence that has prompted harsh responses from each side.
"It’s the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them," he said, "That is the only way to halt the rising tide of violence that has taken too many lives – too many Israelis, too many Palestinians.
On Monday, shortly before Blinken arrived, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that Israeli troops killed a Palestinian in the city of Hebron, where violence erupted, bringing the number of Palestinians killed in January to 35.