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Israel-Palestine: Jordan's king urges 'calm' as violence surges

King Abdullah in a telephone call with Naftali Bennett said 'all obstacles to Muslim prayers at al-Aqsa should be removed', especially as Ramadan begins
Israeli security forces check Palestinians heading to the al-Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers on 1 April 2022, in the Old City of Jerusalem (AFP)

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett there needed to be "calm" between Israelis and Palestinians, as violence has surged in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

During a telephone call with Bennett, the king emphasised "the importance of achieving calm in order to avoid any escalation in the Palestinian territories", a statement from the royal court said, according to AFP.

Abdullah called for "removing all obstacles to Muslim prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, particularly with the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and to prevent provocations that could lead to an escalation".

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A total of 11 people have been killed in attacks in Israel since 22 March, including some carried out by assailants linked to or inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Over the same period, eight Palestinians have been killed, according to an AFP tally, including two assailants in anti-Israeli attacks and six people the Israelis said had carried out attacks or were about to do so.

Bennett's office said in a statement that the premier "thanked the King of Jordan for his firm statement against the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Israel in recent days".

The pair also discussed "the importance of cooperation between the countries and the continuation of the ongoing relationship and dialogue".

Al-Aqsa mosque in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam.

Last year during Ramadan, clashes that flared between Israeli forces and Palestinians visiting the mosque compound led to 11 days of devastating conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip's Islamist rulers Hamas.

Rare Ramallah visit

On Wednesday, King Abdullah II hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Amman and condemned "violence in all its forms".

The visit came a day after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met the king in Amman. The king called on Israel to "lift all obstacles that could prevent [Muslims] from performing prayers" at al-Aqsa.

Abdullah also paid a rare visit to Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a further effort to seek calm.

Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994 and the Hashemite kingdom serves as custodian of holy places in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

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