Israel, Palestinians meet in Egypt to defuse tensions

CAIRO (AP) – Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday to ease tensions between the sides and stem a spiral of violence ahead of a delicate holiday season that begins this week.

The meeting was the sides’ second attempt, led by regional allies Egypt and Jordan and the US, to end a year-long outbreak of violence that has left more than 200 Palestinians dead by Israeli fire and more than 40 Israelis or foreigners killed in Palestinian attacks.

Whatever progress has been made from the latest meeting in Jordan late last month, which ended with pledges to de-escalate tensions, was quickly derailed when On the same day, a new outbreak of violence broke out. A Palestinian gunman shot dead two Israelis in the occupied West Bank, and Jewish settlers then rampaged through a Palestinian town, destroying property and resulting in the death of a Palestinian.

Bloodshed has risen sharply since the last meeting, which keeps expectations low for the second part. Still, the mediators want to defuse tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this week and coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover next month.

Ahmed Abu Zaid, a spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry, said Sunday’s meeting would be attended by “senior politicians and security officials” from both sides, as well as from Egypt, Jordan and the US. He wrote on Twitter that the talks are part of efforts to achieve and support calm between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh tweeted that the meeting was meant to “call for an end to this ongoing Israeli aggression against us.” There was no immediate comment from Israel on the meeting, but Israeli media said senior security officials would attend.

The coming period is delicate as large numbers of Jewish and Muslim believers pour into the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional heart of the conflict and a focus of violence, increasing friction. Large numbers of Jews are also expected to visit an important Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount, in what Palestinians see as a provocation. Clashes at the site in 2021 helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

While violence began under the previous Israeli government, it has intensified in the first two months of the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition. It is the country’s most right-wing government of all time and is dominated by uncompromising pro-settlement supporters. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister overseeing the police, is an extremist who was once relegated to the fringes of Israeli politics and has been convicted in the past of inciting violence and supporting a Jewish terror group. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for the “wiping out” of the Palestinian city hit by the shootings. Apologies after an international outcry.

The violence is one of the worst rounds between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in years.

After a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis last spring, Israel launched near-night raids in the West Bank, ostensibly to contain the attacks and dismantle militant networks. But the raids did not seem to slow the violence, and attacks on Israelis continued, killing 44 people.

Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. According to The Associated Press, 85 Palestinians have been killed this year alone.

Israel says most of those killed were militants. But stone-throwing youth protesting the raids were also killed, as were people not involved in the clashes. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and placed in so-called administrative detention, denied due process for security reasons.

Israel conquered the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians seek these areas for their future independent state.


Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel.

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