Israeli and Palestinian officials met on Sunday in Aqaba, Jordan, in a bid to reduce tensions in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. The meeting was attended by U.S. and Egyptian representatives.
The Israeli delegation included National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) head Ronen Bar, with the Palestinian team being led by Palestinian Authority intelligence chief Majed Faraj. The United States was represented by White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk.
“Israel accepted the American offer to participate in the meeting, during which the security representatives from the participating countries will discuss ways to calm tensions in the region ahead of the month of Ramadan [that begins on March 22 or 23],” according to a statement by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
Israeli media quoted a Jordanian official as saying that “the political-security meeting is part of stepped-up ongoing efforts by [Amman] in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and other parties to end unilateral measures [by Israel] and a breakdown that could fuel more violence.”
The meeting comes amid an Israeli counter-terrorism offensive in Judea and Samaria prompted by a wave of deadly attacks.
On Wednesday, 11 Palestinians were reported killed in a gun battle that erupted when Israeli forces came under fire during an arrest raid in Nablus. Israeli forces were attacked by gunmen after surrounding a building in the kasbah/Old City in the center of the Palestinian Authority-run city in Samaria in which three terrorists, the targets of the operation, had holed up.
Gazan terrorists fired six rockets at southern Israel overnight Wednesday, prompting the IDF to strike a Hamas arms manufacturing facility in the central Strip as well as a military compound in the northern Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday promised a firm response to Palestinian terrorism.
“We have a clear policy: to strike at terrorism forcefully and to deepen our roots in our land…. We will continue to take strong action on all fronts, near and far, in order to thwart our enemies’ efforts to attack us. Whoever tries to harm us will pay the price,” said Netanyahu.
Earlier this month, a terrorist attack in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood claimed the lives of Yaakov Israel Paley, 6, his brother, Asher Menachem Paley, 8, and 20-year-old Alter Shlomo Lederman. Three days later, Israeli soldier St.-Sgt. Asil Sawaed, 22, died from wounds sustained in a terrorist attack at a checkpoint to Shuafat in northeastern Jerusalem.
In late January, seven people were killed and several others were wounded in a terrorist shooting attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood.
Axios reported last week that senior aides to Netanyahu have been holding talks with P.A. officials for months through a secret back channel. According to the report, which cited three sources briefed on the issue, the United States helped facilitate the talks, which were initiated by the Palestinians ahead of the swearing-in of the Netanyahu government in December.
Late last month, Netanyahu made an unannounced trip to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II.