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Biden to visit Israel in coming months after Bennett invitation

US President Joe Biden accepts invitation to visit with Israeli leaders amid heightened tensions in occupied East Jerusalem

US President Joe Biden will visit Israel in the coming months following an invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Bennett's office and the White House announced.

The two leaders spoke on Sunday and Bennett briefed Biden on efforts "to stop the violence and incitement in Jerusalem", Bennett's office said in a statement, in reference to turmoil at the holy city's al-Aqsa Mosque.

A series of Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque began at the start of Ramadan and has resulted in several days of violence around occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinians have been outraged by a massive Israeli police deployment and repeated visits by Israeli settlers to pray at the holy site.

Israeli forces injured at least 57 Palestinians during attacks on the mosque compound on Friday, raising concern of a repeat of Israel's 2021 bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which took place following heightened tensions in Jerusalem. 

Israel carried out air strikes in central Gaza before dawn on Thursday after a rocket launched from the Palestinian territory landed in Israel. On Saturday, Israel announced that it would close its crossings into the Gaza Strip. 

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'Unwavering support for Israel'

US officials have been engaged with Israelis, Palestinians and Arab representatives in the region in recent weeks.

Biden "took note of ongoing efforts between Israeli and Palestinian officials to lower tensions and ensure a peaceful conclusion to the holy season of Ramadan" and affirmed "his unwavering support for Israel and its defense needs", the White House said in its statement.

The US supplies Israel with around $3.8b in military aid annually. 

During the call, the two leaders also discussed "the threat posed by Iran and its proxies", the White House added.

In particular, they discussed Tehran's demand to remove Iran's Revolutionary Guards from the US terrorism list, the Israeli statement said, quoting Bennett as saying: "I am confident that President Biden ... will not allow the Revolutionary Guards to be removed."

Biden "also accepted an invitation to visit Israel over the coming months", the White House said, adding that the two leaders would stay in regular contact. 

Bennett visited Biden in Washington last summer.

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