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Jordan to host Israeli-Palestinian talks as violence spirals

Agencies and A News MIDDLE EAST
Published February 26,2023

Jordan is to host a "political-security" meeting between Israel and the Palestinians on Sunday to try to restore calm in the occupied territories after deadly violence, a government official said.

The meeting to be held in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba will also be attended by United States and Egyptian representatives.

It aims at "building trust" between Israel and the Palestinians, the official told AFP on Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The head of Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency, Ronen Bar, will be part of the Israeli delegation, a security source told AFP.

As the talks come after 11 Palestinians were killed in a gun battle on Wednesday when Israeli troops raided the West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian leadership's decision to attend the Jordan meeting drew criticism from other factions.

The ruling Fatah movement of president Mahmud Abbas defended the move on Twitter.

"The decision to take part in the Aqaba meeting despite the pain and massacres being endured by the Palestinian people comes from a desire to bring an end to the bloodshed," the movement said.

The death toll in Wednesday's raid was the highest since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, ended in 2005, the year the United Nations started tracking casualties.

Intensifying unrest this year has sparked international concern and comes after 2022 became the deadliest year in the West Bank since UN tracking began.

Dozens dead this year

"The political-security meeting is part of stepped up ongoing efforts by Jordan in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and other parties to end unilateral measures (by Israel) and a security breakdown that could fuel more violence," the Jordanian government official said.

The talks aim to agree "security and economic measures to ease the hardships of the Palestinian people," the official added.

Jordan, like Egypt, is bound by a peace treaty with Israel.

Since the start of this year, the Israeli attacks has claimed the lives of 62 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.

Nine Israeli civilians, including three children, a police officer and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.

Since December, Israel has been ruled by a coalition government regarded as the most right-wing in Israel's history. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a veteran hawk, handed key West Bank powers to far-right ministers.

The new premier travelled to Amman in January for a rare meeting with King Abdullah II. The king stressed "the need to maintain calm and cease all acts of violence", the royal palace said at the time.

Abdullah also reaffirmed Jordan's position in support of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians to end the decades-old conflict.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since capturing it from Jordan in the Six-Day War of 1967.