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US-Israeli citizen injured in West Bank as parties meet in Egypt to de-escalate

A second Israeli-Palestinian-American-Egyptian-Jordanian meeting took place on Sunday, with all parties pledging to take measures to de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank, ahead of Ramadan and Passover.
Israeli security forces patrol the town of Huwara following a shooting attack on an Israeli vehicle in the area, West Bank, March 19, 2023.

Israeli-American David Stern, a former US Marine, was shot and seriously injured Sunday evening when driving by the Palestinian village of Huwara in the West Bank. According to news reports, Stern shot back at the gunman, injuring him. The assailant was then apprehended by Israeli security forces.

Shortly after the incident, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides confirmed that an American citizen was injured in a shooting attack near Huwara. US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Sunday, mainly about the judicial overhaul plan advanced by the Israeli government.

Still, the office of Netanyahu said he also updated Biden on the Huwara incident. Netanyahu’s office issued a statement after the phone call. “The prime minister told President Biden that Israel would continue to take action everywhere against terrorists and the architects of terrorism. Netanyahu thanked President Biden for his commitment to Israel’s security,” it read.

The shooting in Huwara took place as Israeli, Palestinian, American, Egyptian and Jordanian senior officials were meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in a bid to calm tensions in the West bank and in Jerusalem ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan that starts later this week. At the meeting, Israel reconfirmed its commitment to stop for a few months any new initiative for settlement construction.

The meeting in Egypt was convened at the initiative of the Biden administration, following a first meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, on Feb. 26. At the time, tensions escalated in the West Bank only hours after the Aqaba meeting when two Israeli brothers were shot and killed when passing through Huwara, and with settlers storming Huwara in revenge, ravaging Palestinian homes and property.

A joint statement published after the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting noted that the parties "held thorough discussions on ways and means to de-escalate tensions on the ground between Palestinians and Israelis, in order to pave a way forward toward the peaceful settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

The joint statement listed nine points agreed upon by the participants. Among other things, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) both committed to end all unilateral measures for a period of three to six months. "This includes an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for 4 months, and to stop authorization of any outposts for 6 months," the statement read.

The sides also agreed "to develop a mechanism to curb and counter violence, incitement, and inflammatory statements and actions, which will report to the quintet leadership in April, in a resumed session of the meeting in Sharm El Sheikh." A second mechanism was also agreed upon, to seek measures to improve living conditions of Palestinians, including measures to help stabilize the economic and fiscal situation of the PA.

Concerning the holy sites in Jerusalem, especially Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the parties "reiterated the commitment of upholding unchanged the historic status quo at the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, both in word and in practice, and reaffirmed in this context the importance of the Hashemite Custodianship/special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. They emphasized the necessity of both Israelis and Palestinians to actively prevent any actions that would disrupt the sanctity of these sites, inter alia during the upcoming Holy Month of Ramadan, which coincides with Easter and Passover this year."

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