Blinken condemns 'heinous' synagogue attack as he lands in Tel Aviv

He called for 'everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them' ahead of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leadership


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Friday's "heinous" terror attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue as he arrived in Tel Aviv for a two-day visit to the region.

Speaking to reporters on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Mr Blinken also called for the calming of tensions, saying: “It’s the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them. That is the only way to halt the rising tide of violence that has taken too many lives, too many Israelis, too many Palestinians.”

On Friday evening, a Palestinian terrorist shot and killed seven Israelis outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, including a 14-year-old boy and a married couple who went to assist the victims.

Mr Blinken said that the Friday's shooting was an attack on faith: "To take an innocent life in an act of terrorism is always a heinous crime, but to target people outside their place of worship is especially shocking.

"Friday’s attack was more than an attack on individuals; it was also an attack on the universal act of practicing one’s faith.  We condemn it in the strongest terms."

Mr Blinken also condemned those celebrating terror attacks, adding: "Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer and acts of retaliatory violence against civilians are never justified."

The top US diplomat then went straight to Jerusalem where he held talks and a joint press conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Blinken said that the pair had a "candid and important discussion that covered a lot of issues."

Both Mr Blinken and Mr Netanyahu expressed their joint desire to ensure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, and said that they hope to achieve peace with the Palestinians through a two-state solution.

Mr Blinken is expected to hold talks with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, during his two-day visit to the region where he is expected to call “broadly for steps to be taken to de-escalate tensions."

Israel's foreign minister Eli Cohen met Mr Blinken at the airport and reiterated the importance of ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and pressing allies to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which both the EU and the UK have expressed a willingness to do.

Mr Cohen said: “I thank the secretary of state for America’s commitment to regional stability, for the unequivocal message against terrorism that he offered immediately after landing in Israel, on the willingness to work to expand the Abraham Accords… and the continued determined front against Iran.”

Mr Blinken's visit to Israel's follows a meeting on Sunday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi for discussions that, according to public readouts, focused on de-escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Blinken is the second high-level Biden Administration official to visit Israel after Mr Netanyahu became prime minister once again earlier this month, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan holding meetings with Israeli government officials earlier this month.

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