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U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt Travels to Israel to Soothe Regional Tensions

24 Jul 2017 1:57 am
By Eli Stokols 

Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. envoy leading efforts to reopen peace talks between Israel and Palestine, is headed to the Middle East as a crisis surrounding a holy site escalates, according to a White House official.

Mr. Greenblatt left for Israel on Sunday night "to support efforts to reduce tensions in the region," the official said.

Along with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, Mr. Greenblatt has been in touch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in recent days following a terrorist attack on the holy plateau known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

The site is holy to both religions and has often been a point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The attack, which left two Israeli police officers dead, led Israeli officials last week to introduce metal detectors at the site's entrances.

Protests ensued around the Arab world over the security measure, and in Jerusalem and the West Bank, riots led to three Palestinian deaths. For many Arabs, the metal detectors were seen as giving Israel control over entry to a Muslim holy site.

On Friday evening, a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death and injured a fourth in their home in the Halamish settlement. The attacker was shot and wounded.

"President Trump and his administration are closely following unfolding events in the region," the White House official said. "The United States utterly condemns the recent terrorist violence including the horrific attack Friday night that killed three people at their Shabbat dinner table in Halamish and sends condolences to the families of the innocent victims."

"We are engaged in discussions with the relevant parties and are committed to finding a resolution to the ongoing security issues," the official said in a statement.

Mr. Greenblatt will be coordinating with the State Department and with Mr. Kushner, the White House said. Mr. Kushner is scheduled to testify in a closed Senate hearing Monday about his meetings with Russian officials during last year's campaign.

In an effort to quell the uprisings, Messrs. Kushner and Greenblatt spoke with Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday and Mr. Abbas on Thursday. Mr. Abbas on Friday declared an end to security cooperation with Israel over the metal detectors.

Write to Eli Stokols at eli.stokols@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 23, 2017 21:57 ET (01:57 GMT)

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