US Secretary Blinken urges Israel, Palestinians to 'end the cycle of violence'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday to "end the cycle of violence" after a series of Israeli attacks on Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan.
In separate calls with Palestinian president Mahmoud 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, in Jerusalem's Israeli-occupied 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 said the US was committed to improving Palestinians' quality of life.
But with both leaders, Blinken urged for a two-state solution.
The State Department announced on Tuesday evening that Yael Lempert, assistant secretary for near eastern affairs, would travel to Jordan, Israel, the occupied 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 airstrike on the Gaza Strip in months early on Tuesday, in response to a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave after a weekend of Israeli attacks 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 killed over 250 people in the Gaza Strip and caused extensive material damage in the besieged enclave.