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Kerry to urge all sides to calm rhetoric after Netanyahu remarks

Reuters , Ahram Online , Thursday 22 Oct 2015
United States Secretary of State John Kerry reacts on the airstair before disembarking from his plane at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany October 22, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tone down his rhetoric when the two meet on Thursday, days after the Israeli leader linked a Muslim leader to the Holocaust.

Speaking just before a visit to Germany, and following three weeks of Israeli-Palestinian clashes, Netanyahu suggested Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Muslim elder in Jerusalem during the 1940s, had persuaded Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews.

The comments have attracted wide criticism from Israeli opposition politicians and Holocaust experts, who accused the Israeli prime minister of distorting the historical record.

Senior U.S. State Department official told reporters that Kerry hopes to persuade both sides to tone down their rhetoric as he began a four-day trip to Europe and the Middle East by sitting down with Netanyahu in Berlin.

"Some of the rhetoric on the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount has really fueled the tensions," the senior U.S. official said as Kerry flew to Germany, his first stop on a trip expected to include talks with top Palestinian and Jordanian officials.

"The rhetoric itself helps to feed the violence," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added. "By changing the nature of the rhetoric, hopefully we can diminish some of the impetus behind the violence."

The tone mirrored that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint news conference with Netanyahu on Wednesday evening.

"We have to do everything to calm down the situation and in this spirit I think all sides need to make a contribution," she said.

It is not clear why Netanyahu decided to launch into the issue now, but his remarks came with tensions between Israelis and Palestinians at a new peak, particularly over a Jerusalem holy site overseen by the current mufti.

Asked about the comments at the news conference in Berlin, Netanyahu said: "Hitler is responsible for the Holocaust. No one should deny that" before adding that al-Husseini had supported the final solution.

"There is evidence to this effect in both the Nuremberg trials and of course elaborated in the Eichmann trial," he said, standing next to an uncomfortable looking Merkel.

Since the start of October, Israeli security forces killed 48 Palestinians, among them children by Israeli troops. Nine Israeli have been killed in stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks.

The current wave of protests and repression started in late July when 18-month old toddler Ali Dawabsha was burned to death and three other Palestinians severely injured after their house in the occupied West Bank was set on fire by Israeli settlers.

The parents of the toddler, Riham and Saad, and their other son Ahmad, later lost their lives after suffering serious injuries in the arson.

Palestinians have also been protesting repeated illegal Israeli and Jewish settler attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the closing of the Muslim holy site to worshippers on numerous occasions. Protests have taken place in occupied East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, A 15-year-old Palestinian girl was injured in the occupied West Bank morning after Israeli troops shot her, later claiming she was armed, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

A Palestinian Authority official, Ghassan Daghlas, said Israel accused 15-year-old Istabraq Ahmed Noor of planning to sneak into an illegal Israeli settlement to stab residents, according to Ma'an.

Following the incident Israeli occupation forces effectively sealed off two Palestinian villages south of Nablus, where Noor lives, by establishing checkpoints at their entrances, Ma'an reported Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli settlers on Tuesday attacked a 14-year-old Palestinian boy near Jenin.

Saqir Mahmoud Hirzallah and his friends were attacked while collecting olives in fields owned by the boy's family. His friends managed to escape unharmed.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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