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Kerry to meet Netanyahu in bid to calm West Bank unrest

Abbas Momani, AFP | A Palestinian protester loading his slingshot near Ramallah, October 16, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany next week amid fears of a full-scale uprising in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as Saturday attacks left three Palestinians dead.

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In the first attack in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, a Palestinian attempted to stab an Israeli civilian, the Israeli military said. The Israeli, who was carrying a gun, shot and killed the attacker.

Shortly after, Israeli border police stopped to question a Palestinian man walking in "a suspicious manner" through a neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, a police spokesman said. The man drew a knife and tried to stab the officers, who shot him dead, the spokesman said.

Also in Hebron, a Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli policewoman, injuring her hand, a police spokesperson said. The policewoman shot the attacker.

No Israeli was hurt in the incidents.

The latest attacks came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss "how best to end the recent wave of violence, and to offer US support for efforts to restore calm as soon as possible."

Kerry had earlier spoken to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and "reiterated the importance of avoiding further violence and preventing inflammatory rhetoric, accusations and actions that will increase tensions," a State Department official said.

Kerry, who was travelling to Europe yesterday, has said he plans to go to the Middle East soon to try to calm the violence.

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, told CNN on Friday that Netanyahu and Kerry would be meeting in Germany next week.

Earlier, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Netanyahu would travel to Germany on Wednesday for talks with Merkel on the security situation in Israel and the wider Middle East.

'Friday of revolution'

The latest violence follows Thursday night’s arson attack on Joseph's Tomb, a shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus which many Jews believe to be the final resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph.

The shrine is also claimed by Muslims as the final resting place for Islamic cleric Sheikh Yussef (Joseph) Dawiqat, who was buried two centuries ago.

The arson attack came as Palestinians called for a "Friday of revolution" against Israel and as clashes along the border with the Gaza Strip saw Israeli fire kill two Palestinians and wound 98.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington on Friday, Obama said "we are very concerned about the outbreak of violence."

He called on Netanyahu and Abbas, in collaboration with other people in positions of power, to counter the rhetoric that "may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding".

"Over time, the only way that Israel is going to be truly secure, and the only way the Palestinians will be able to meet the aspirations of their people, is if they are two states living side by side in peace and security," Obama said.

But right now, "everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people aren't being killed."

Fears of a third Intifada

Netanyahu on Thursday reiterated his willingness to meet Abbas, while accusing him of inciting and encouraging violence.

Abbas has called for peaceful protests, but had not explicitly condemned any attacks in the recent wave of unrest until the arson attack on Joseph's Tomb.

He said the arson "offends our culture and our religion and our morals", and that the damage would be repaired.

Netanyahu has come under immense pressure to halt the violence but the mostly young attackers seem to be acting on their own, with no mastermind for security forces to pursue.

The violence has sparked fears that a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising against Israeli occupation, could break out.

In the Palestinian uprisings of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, thousands were killed and many more wounded in near daily violence.

October’s deadly violence began when a suspected cell of the Islamist movement Hamas murdered a Jewish settler couple in the West Bank in front of their children.

Those killings followed repeated clashes at East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque in September between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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