(MENAFN- Gulf Times) US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday said there was "no justification" for a wave of Palestinian knife, vehicle and shooting attacks against Israelis, but urged Israel to take steps to reduce tensions.
But as he paid his first visit to Israel and the West Bank in 16 months in an urgent bid to help restore calm, the violence continued.
"Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives or scissors or cars," Kerry said at the start of a morning meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
He later met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
He was welcomed by top Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) official Saeb Erakat at Abbas' presidential headquarters.
"Our hope is that over the course of the next days steps can be taken that will bring some calm, reduce the violence and open up the opportunity for people to restore their daily lives," Kerry moments earlier told Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
A senior Israeli government official told Israel Radio there was no - nor would there be any - freeze of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The official added that a return to calm was a prime condition for any economic gestures to the Palestinians.
In the latest instance of violence, a Palestinian motorist rammed his car into a northern West Bank checkpoint early yesterday, lightly injuring two Israeli soldiers and a border policeman, police said, setting a dark tone for the Kerry visit.
The Palestinian sped up as he turned toward the checkpoint, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Other border policemen shot the driver, who was injured, arrested and taken for medical treatment before questioning, she said.
Apart from a July 2014 visit to broker a truce in the Gaza war, Kerry has stayed away from Israel and the West Bank since peace negotiations he oversaw collapsed in April of that year.
Dozens of attacks since early October have prompted the fresh visit, which comes despite the absence of any peace talks.
"I'm here to talk about ways we can work together ... to push back against terrorism and push back against senseless violence," Kerry said in Jerusalem.
Siding with the US ally, he said Israel had "every right in the world to defend itself" and condemned stabbings and car rammings as "terrorism".
He said he was also "deeply concerned" about Syria, the Islamic State and regional unrest.
Netanyahu said "there can be no peace when we have an onslaught of terror."
The wave of violence erupted in early October, amid Palestinian anger at perceived Israeli plans - denied by Israel - to change prayer arrangements at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque.
Deep frustration by a new generation of Palestinians with the failure to achieve statehood through negotiations, and fury at ongoing settlement expansion, are seen as underlying causes.
Palestinians have launched 96 knife attacks, car rammings and shootings against Israelis since early October, the Israeli foreign ministry says.
The Palestinian health ministry says 97 Palestinians have been killed in the wave of violence.
Some 18 Israelis, an Eritrean, an American and a Palestinian bystander have been killed in the Palestinian attacks.
Netanyahu on Monday announced stricter controls on Palestinian vehicles and an increase in so-called "bypass roads", which create separate routes for Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
Israel has already adopted the controversial policy of demolishing the homes of attackers, which it says acts as a deterrent.
Kerry has repeatedly called for both sides to take "concrete steps" to reduce tension and end provocative rhetoric, but his words have had little impact on the ground.
There is also little optimism he will be able to convince the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to resume peace talks.
"There's no agreement to be reached between the parties right now," one senior US official said.
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