Blinken Reaffirms US-Israeli Ties in Post-Terror Visit, Urges Calm After Weekend of Violence
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The worst weekend of terror attacks in Israel in a decade, including a brutal assault on a synagogue in a Jerusalem suburb, left 7 people dead on Friday as they celebrated Shabbat and commemorated the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The next day, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot and wounded a Jewish father and son. It all happened just before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on Monday.
Blinken spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and President Isaac Herzog, and is slated to meet Tuesday with Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, before going to Ramallah to meet Palestinian officials.
With tensions flaring in the Middle East, Blinken is urging Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint and is hoping to help reduce the level of conflict.
Speaking in Jerusalem, he said, "It's the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions, rather than inflame them."
Despite the attacks, Blinken's meeting with Netanyahu and other leaders seemed to stay on track. The secretary of state made his case for the two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. "As we advance Israel's integration, we can do so in ways that improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, and that's crucial to moving toward our enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity," he said.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, emphasized a strong, united stance against Iran. "Our policy and my policy is to do everything within Israel's power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them," Netanyahu explained.
After discussions with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Blinken announced that U.S.-Israeli relations "remain iron-clad."
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Friday's attack in Jerusalem killed 7 and wounded 3 others. The victims' ages ranged from 14 to 68 and included a couple who died trying to help those who were shot.
Palestinians celebrated the terror attack in Jenin, Nablus, and eastern Jerusalem with fireworks, and passed out sweets.
The young Palestinian shooter who opened fire on a father and son in the City of David was shot and wounded when the family returned fire.
The two most recent attacks prompted the government to direct Israel's police to demolish the homes of the shooters' families as punishment. Other new security measures announced by the Netanyahu government include revoking Israeli identity cards and residency for families of terrorists, as well as expanding and expediting weapons permits to thousands of Israeli civilians.
During his Ramallah meetings, Blinken is expected to reaffirm U.S. support for a two-state solution and also impress on Palestinian leadership the importance of political reforms.
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