Kerry to meet Abbas as new Israeli settlements fan tensions

Kerry to meet Abbas as new Israeli settlements fan tensions
Jordanian Christians and Muslims march together and called for tolerance between Muslims and Christians.

JERUSALEM - US Secretary of State John Kerry is set for talks Thursday with the Palestinian leader on easing regional tensions, after Israel approved new settler homes in east Jerusalem despite mounting unrest.

The new settlement construction was announced on Wednesday just hours after suspected Jewish extremists torched a West Bank mosque, in another development likely to inflame tempers in an already heated atmosphere.

Months of unrest have escalated in recent days, spreading from annexed east Jerusalem to the West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.

Kerry was due to hold talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Amman on Thursday, after arriving in Jordan late Wednesday to discuss the situation in annexed east Jerusalem and other regional issues at a private dinner with King Abdullah II.

So far no meeting between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been scheduled, the US State Department said.

Kerry's arrival in the region comes as Israel struggles to contain the wave of unrest.

Much of the tension has been focused on Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, which has seen numerous clashes sparked by Palestinian fears that Israel is preparing to legislate changes to allow Jewish prayer there.

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