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Kerry to calm Israeli-Palestinian tensions in Mideast visit

US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced plans for a visit to the Middle East, in a bid to calm rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I will go there soon, at some point appropriately, and try to work to reengage and see if we can move that away from this precipice,” Kerry said Tuesday at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“There’s been a massive increase in [Israeli] settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing,” Kerry said.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were occupied by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

The top US diplomat said the chances for a two-state solution “could conceivably be stolen from everybody,” if clashes were to spiral out of control.

The visit will be Kerry’s most direct attempt to broker peace between the two sides since talks led by Washington failed last year.

Earlier this month, Kerry warned Tel Aviv and the Palestinians to exercise restraint after violent clashes erupted in the Old City of al-Quds (Jerusalem).

“I would caution everybody to be calm, not to escalate the situation and to deal with this in a way that can find quick way back to the full restoration of the status quo,” he said.

The deadly violence erupted following Israel’s imposition of sweeping restrictions last month on entries into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and repeated attacks by illegal Israeli settlers on the mosque.

This is the worst unrest in the occupied territories over the past few years. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 30 Palestinians, including 9 children, have been killed and 400 have been wounded by Israeli forces and illegal settlers between October 1 and 13.

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