US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to incite violence against Israelis, amid mounting unrest in Jerusalem.
Since the recent spate of violence began the United States has repeatedly urged both sides to show restraint, but Kerry’s remarks were the first aimed explicitly at Abbas.
“There’s no excuse for the violence,” Kerry told NPR News, which released extracts of a radio interview due to air Friday as the US diplomatic chief flies to Europe.
“No amount of frustration is appropriate to license any violence anywhere at any time. No violence should occur. And the Palestinians need to understand,” he argued.
“President Abbas has been committed to non-violence. He needs to be condemning this, loudly and clearly,” Kerry said. “And he needs to not engage in some of the incitement that his voice has sometimes been heard to encourage. So that has to stop.”
Jerusalem is in the grip of an upsurge in violence in recent weeks that has seen eight Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian terrorists, including a spate of stabbing attacks, and Palestinian rioters killed by security forces in Gaza and the West Bank.
Abbas has not openly endorsed the attacks, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused him of inciting violence by calling for protests against Israel. At the UN last month, Abbas accused Israel of sending “extremists” into Al-Aqsa Mosque. On Wednesday, he alleged Israel was executing Palestinians in cold blood, and cited as an example a Palestinian teenager who had in fact perpetrated a terror attack, was alive, and was being treated in an Israeli hospital.
Kerry said he plans to travel to the region “in the coming days,” as the Israeli media reports that a summit between Netanyahu and Abbas in Jordan could be on the cards.
Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Abbas and Kerry spoke Thursday, with the Palestinian leader telling the secretary that he would try to reduce the tensions in Israel and the West Bank.
Amid a firestorm over comments from State Department spokesman John Kirby, who seemed to accuse Israel of using excessive force against Palestinians, Kerry earlier Thursday denounced terrorism and emphasized that the US supports “Israel’s right to defend its existence.”
“We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against innocent civilians,” he declared in a speech at Indiana University. “There is simply no justification for these reprehensible attacks and we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend its existence.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report