Obama 'very concerned' by outbreak of Mideast violence

Israeli soldiers lift a wounded comrade into an ambulance car after he was stabbed by a Palestinian protester, who was shot and killed, in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Oct 16, 2015. The attacker pretending to be a local news photographer was wear
Israeli soldiers lift a wounded comrade into an ambulance car after he was stabbed by a Palestinian protester, who was shot and killed, in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Oct 16, 2015. The attacker pretending to be a local news photographer was wearing a t-shirt marked with 'PRESS' as he advanced and stabbed the Israeli soldier.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama expressed concern on Friday (Oct 16) about the outbreak of violence centered in Jerusalem and called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to tamp down inflammatory rhetoric.

"We are very concerned about the outbreak of violence," Obama said at a news conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people, and believe that Israel has a right to maintain basic law and order and protect its citizens from knife attacks, and violence on the streets," he added.

"We also believe that it's important for both Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu and Israeli elected officials, and President Abbas and other people in positions of power, to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding," he said.

Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in the violence so far, while 37 Palestinians have died, including alleged attackers, and hundreds more have been wounded in clashes.

Fresh protests erupted on Friday after Palestinians torched Joseph's Tomb, a site revered by Jews in the West Bank city of Nablus.

The arson came as Palestinians called for a "Friday of revolution" against Israel, and police barred men under 40 from attending the main weekly prayers at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, seeking to keep young protesters away.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to meet with Netanyahu in Berlin next week, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer told CNN.

"Over time, the only way that Israel is going to be truly secure, and the only way the Palestinians will be able to meet the aspirations of their people, is if they are two states living side by side in peace and security," Obama said.

But right now, he said, "everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people aren't being killed."