Kerry returns to Israel to talk with leaders about peace negotiations, amid new violence
Published December 28, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry will travel next week to the Middle East to meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders about peace talks that were recently overshadowed by a new wave of violence in the region, Fox News confirmed Saturday.
Kerry told the Palestinian Authority that he will return to the area on January 4, a source first told the Agence France-Presse
He will arrive amid a series of violent Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets in recent weeks. There attacks are raising Israeli concern of a new type of Palestinian uprising. Kerry, who became secretary of state in February, has visited Israel nine times.
The recent incidents do not appear to be an organized effort by militant groups, but rather a collection of individual acts.
After years of relative quiet, Israel's Shin Bet security service has reported a steady rise in attacks since Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators resumed peace talks in July.
In November, for example, there were 167 attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, compared to 136 in October, the security service said.
Israel and Palestinian officials agree that violence from the West Bank is connected to the peace talks, though they pin the blame on each other. The Palestinians say the current climate is a result of brewing frustrations over the perceived lack of progress in peace talks while Israel continues to build Jewish settlements on land they claim for a future state.
Others link the violence to the release of convicted Palestinian killers as part of the deal to resume talks. This logic goes that Palestinians are emboldened to carry out attacks knowing that they will eventually be freed from prison. A third group of prisoners is expected to be released next week.
On Sunday, a pipe bomb believed to be planted by Palestinian militants exploded on a bus in central Israel in the most serious attack inside Israel in more than a year. The next day, an Israeli policeman was stabbed outside a West Bank settlement. And on Tuesday an Israeli civilian was killed by a Palestinian sniper in a cross-border shooting from Gaza, sparking a series of Israeli air strikes that killed a Palestinian girl.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip, located on opposite sides of Israel, are ruled by different governments. Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority are engaged in peace talks aimed at ending decades of conflict and establishing an independent state for Palestinians. But Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers refuse to recognize Israel and call for its destruction.
The situation in Gaza is far different.
Hamas opposes the peace talks and has engaged in several rounds of heavy fighting with Israel over the years. For the past 13 months, it has observed a cease-fire with Israel. But extremist Salafist groups have carried out periodic attacks in order to undermine the cease-fire. An Israeli blockade and a tough Egyptian crackdown on Gaza’s southern border in recent months have created fuel shortages and economic hardship in Gaza, creating a fertile ground for extremists. Hamas was not involved in Tuesday’s sniper attack.