WASHINGTON – With less than a month to go before US President Barack Obama's
to Israel, the US is making efforts to calm the situation in the West Bank.
Deputy State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell called on Israel
and the Palestinians to "exercise maximum restraint."
Speaking at a press briefing, Ventrell said that the US is "conveying that message directly to Israeli and Palestinian officials. All parties should seriously consider the consequences of their actions, particularly at this very difficult moment.
Clashes in Hebron (Photo: AFP)
"We urge both Palestinians and Israelis not only to refrain from provocative actions that could destabilize conditions on the ground but to consider positive steps, just re-establish trust and de- escalate the current tensions."
Commenting on the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat,
who died at the Megiddo Prison over the weekend, the spokesman said, "We understand that the Israeli government is looking carefully into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat's death. We expect all parties to consider the results of the autopsy calmly and without inflammatory rhetoric."
IDF forces in Hebron (Photo: EPA)
Ventrell further added that "Administrative detention is something we've talked about with our Israeli counterparts, and it's something that is part of our human rights report."
He stressed that Washington officials are working to restore calm, remarking that "You know how important it is to the president and the secretary of state, the issue of getting these two sides back down sitting and talking."
Meanwhile, Robert Serry, the UN coordinator for the Middle East
peace process, called for "an independent and transparent investigation" into the circumstances of Jaradat's death.
"The United Nations is closely monitoring the situation on the ground where mounting tensions present a real risk of destabilization," Serry's office said in a statement.
Udai Sirkhan's family at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Earlier on Monday, two Palestinian teens were severely hurt in clashes
near Bethlehem. Thirteen-old Muhammad Khaled al-Qurd from the al-Aida refugee camp was shot and hit in his upper torso while Udai Sirkhan, 16, sustained a head injury.
IDF soldiers noticed a veiled Sirkhan trying to torch an army post but his family denies the claims. The teen's grandfather, Fathi Ramadan, claims his grandson had not taken part in the clashes and was merely on his way back from work.
'This was no accident' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"On the way the army shot and hit him in the head," he said. Ramadan added that doctors told him that Udai is in very serious condition and that the bullet had penetrated the head. He is currently undergoing surgery.
Not far from them in the Intensive Care Unit was the family of Halmi Abdul Aziz Hassan, 27, who sustained gunshot wounds in clashes near Nablus on Saturday. His father said, "Our children were not hurt by accident, everything is intentional. They hurt my son and their son.
"My son was shot by settlers, theirs by the army, but the army and the state have a responsibility to make sure kids don't get hurt just like that. I wish no one would get hurt, no matter if they're Jewish, Christian or Muslim."
Noam (Dabul) Dvir and Elior Levy contributed to this report
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