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US opposes violence against Palestinians by illegal Jewish settlers

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, on a visit to Israel, has expressed concerns about violence against Palestinians by illegal Jewish settlers and warned against acts that could trigger more insecurity.

Austin said, in a joint news conference with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Galant on Thursday, that the US commitment to Israel’s security was “iron-clad”.

But the US remained “firmly opposed to any acts that could trigger more insecurity, including settlement expansion and inflammatory rhetoric,” he said, adding, “We are especially disturbed by violence by settlers against Palestinians.”

“We will continue to oppose actions that put a two-state solution out of reach.”

Austin’s visit came as fresh Israeli violence killed three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and a teenager succumbed to his wounds received during the Israeli firing in Jenin city earlier this week while protesters rallied against PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government.

Late on Thursday, a gunman shot and wounded three people on a Tel Aviv street before being shot dead by the Israeli police.

Austin had reported “a very frank and candid discussion among friends about the need to de-escalate, to lower tensions and restore calm especially before the holidays of Passover and Ramadan”.

He also called on the “Palestinian leadership to combat terrorism and to resume security cooperation and to condemn incitement”.

Israeli military kills four Palestinians in occupied West Bank

Talks on Iran 

In their meetings with Austin, Netanyahu and his defence minister raised Israeli concerns that its arch-foe Iran is developing nuclear weapons, something Tehran has always denied.

“It is our duty to take all measures necessary to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” Galant told reporters.

Austin said “diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon”, while adding the US would not allow that to happen.

Their talks came ahead of Netanyahu’s departure for Rome, which protesters had sought to obstruct using their vehicles to block access roads.

Austin touched on the Israeli dispute over the planned judiciary reforms, recalling the importance of democracy being built on “strong institutions … and on an independent judiciary”.

The mounting violence in the occupied West Bank has coincided with the tenure of Netanyahu’s coalition government, which took office in December and is regarded as the most right-wing in Israeli history.

The government of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has vowed to continue the expansion of West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law.

UN ‘alarmed’ at West Bank violence after Israel murders six Palestinians

Deadly year so far

Since the start of the year, the Israeli occupation of Palestine has claimed the lives of at least 77 Palestinians, including children.

Fourteen Israelis have also been killed in the same period.

Israel has occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967. 

Some 700,000 Jewish settlers now live in both areas, in settlements regarded as illegal under international law. 

It has enforced a crippling blockade of Palestine’s Gaza enclave from land, air and sea since 2007, restricting the movement of people and goods.

Israeli army storms West Bank’s Jenin city, kills six Palestinians

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