WASHINGTON - U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan encouraged Israel on Sunday to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Monday's Jerusalem Day commemorations, after Israeli police ignored warnings by security officials and approved the annual march that brings flag-waving crowds to Old City's Muslim quarter.
According to a White House statement, Sullivan spoke by phone with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, to express the United States’ serious concerns about escalating tensions in Jerusalem, including the "violent confrontations" at the Temple Mount compound, as well as the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
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Security officials have warned politicians that holding Jerusalem Day events as usual could fan the flames in East Jerusalem and cause the violence that has erupted in the area in recent days to intensify, potentially spreading to Gaza and the West Bank. The events include a march, whose participants are usually overwhelmingly religious Zionist youth, marking the 1967 capture of the Old City.
"Mr. Sullivan highlighted recent engagements by senior U.S. officials with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials and key regional stakeholders to press for steps to ensure calm, deescalate tensions, and denounce violence," the statement said, adding that "they agreed that the launching of rocket attacks and incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel is unacceptable and must be condemned."
Sullivan also assured Ben-Shabbat that the U.S. will remain fully engaged in the days ahead to promoting calm in Jerusalem, with Sullivan expressing the Biden administration's "commitment to Israel’s security and to supporting peace and stability throughout the Middle East."
The phone call came days after the State Department issued its most extensive comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Biden took office, expressing deep concern about the evictions and urging Israel to avoid steps that would exacerbate tensions while calling on both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to act decisively to de-escalate the situation.
Also Sunday, a UN spokesman said Secretary-General Antionio Guterres believes Israel "must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly" and that he "urges Israel to cease demolitions and evictions" in Jerusalem.
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Violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem resumed for the third consecutive night on Sunday and police arrested 18 at protests around the country demonstrating in solidarity with protesters in Jerusalem, following days of violence and unrest in the city that have left hundreds wounded.
A steadily increasing number of Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to make clear to the Israeli government that the eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in Jerusalem must stop immediately, with several of them urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to investigate whether Israel’s "forced displacement for Palestinians" violates U.S. laws.
Reuters contributed to this article.