Israeli and Palestinian officals meet in pre-Ramadan push for calm

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CAIRO - Israeli and Palestinian officials were meeting on Sunday in Egypt for talks aimed at calming surging violence that has stoked fears of further escalation once the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins later this week.

Also backed by the United States and Jordan, the meeting follows a Feb 26 US brokered conference in Aqaba, the first of its kind in years, that secured Israeli and Palestinian pledges to de-escalate but was challenged by factions on both sides and failed to halt violence on the ground.

The meeting in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh “aims to support dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to work to stop unilateral actions and escalation, and break the existing cycle of violence and achieve calm”, a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry said.

This could “facilitate the creation of a climate suitable for the resumption of the peace process”, it added.

In previous years, clashes have erupted between Israeli police and Palestinians around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque during of Ramadan, which coincides this year with Judaism’s Passover and Christian Easter.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank has seen a surge of confrontations in recent months, with near-daily military raids and escalating settler violence amid a spate of attacks by Palestinians.

Over the past year, Israeli forces have made thousands of arrests in the West Bank and killed more than 200 Palestinians, including fighters and civilians.

More than 40 Israelis and three Ukrainians have died in Palestinian attacks in the same period.

Israel pledged in Aqaba to halt discussions on new settlement units in the West Bank for four months and stop authorisation of outposts for six months.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly appeared to downplay any commitment, saying there would be no freeze ...

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