New US military chief visits Israel for top-level talks

New US military chief visits Israel for top-level talks

The new chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff was in Jerusalem on Saturday for talks with senior Israeli leaders, as violence spikes around the country.

This is US Marine General Joseph Dunford’s first overseas trip since taking the job October 1. He was to meet with Gadi Eisenkot, the commander-in-chief of the Israel Defense Forces and others.

Navy Capt. Greg Hicks said the latest violence may come up in meetings, but Dunford’s visit was long-planned and his goal is to meet his Israeli counterparts and reaffirm America’s commitment to Israel. He also will visit other countries in the region.

Five Palestinians were shot dead on Saturday, as they carried out five separate stabbing attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets. The near-daily attacks and clashes began last month, when Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount after the Shin Bet security service reported plans for attacks on Jewish visitors to the site.

The Palestinians claim that Israel plans to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, which is holy to Jews and Muslims but where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray. Israel has repeatedly denied the accusation.

US President Barack Obama said Friday that Israel has the “right to maintain basic law and order and protect its citizens from knife attacks and violence on the streets.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also arrived in Israel on Saturday, for what he called a solidarity mission at a “painful moment” for the Jewish state.

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