Israeli, Palestinian ministers discuss West Bank violence

JERUSALEM (Reuters): Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and a senior Palestinian official discussed violence in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, with Gallant’s office saying he offered reassurance about Israel’s intention to crack down on Jewish settler riots.

The phone call — rare for Israel’s religious-nationalist government — and its publication followed mounting expressions of US concern about the situation in the West Bank, among areas where Palestinians, with foreign backing, seek statehood.

A Hamas gun attack that killed four Israeli civilians outside a West Bank settlement sparked days of violent incursions into Palestinian villages and towns by groups of Jewish settlers. Twelve suspects have been arrested in the latter incidents, Israeli police said.

“Israel views with gravity the violence inflicted upon Palestinian civilians in recent days by extremist elements,” Gallant’s office quoted him as telling Hussein Al-Sheikh, an official in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization.

“Israel would exact full penalty of the law from the rioters,” Gallant added, according to the statement.

There was no immediate comment from Al-Sheikh’s office.

Israeli forces ,which intensified raids against suspected Palestinian militants over the last 15 months, would continue to operate “anywhere required,” Gallant said, while describing a calming of the West Bank as his common interest with Al-Sheikh.