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Israel authorizes police to 'seal off' Arab parts of Jerusalem

The Israeli premier has reportedly authorized police to seal off parts of East Jerusalem as part of 'aggressive steps' against violence. US Secretary of State Kerry said he would arrive in the region 'soon' to mediate.

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Netanyahu vows to take action

Israel's security cabinet has authorized police to seal off Arab sectors of East Jerusalem, according to a statement from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen by news agency AFP. This came after the Israeli government announced that it would be taking "aggressive steps" to stop continued fighting, after a wave of violence left many dead across the country.

"The security cabinet decided several measures to combat terrorism, notably authorizing police to seal off or impose a curfew on parts of Jerusalem in case of friction or incitement to violence," the statement said.

Attack in Jerusalem

The string of attacks since early October has claimes scores of lives on both sides of the conflict, with some fearing another Palestinian uprising

Netanyahu had called an emergency cabinet session on Tuesday to decide on a course of action after Palestinians had launched a series of attacks against Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the country.

"Today we will decide on a series of additional aggressive steps in our war against terrorists and inciters," Netanyahu said in a speech to parliament.

"We will use, and not hesitate to use, all means at our disposal to restore calm."

According to local media, authorities were also considering the deployment of the army on the streets of Jerusalem.

John Kerry to visit region

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he would travel to the region 'soon' to calm the violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Addressing an audience at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kerry said:

"I will go there soon, at some point appropriately, and try to work to reengage and see if we can't move that away from this precipice."

Kerry had strongly condemned what he called "terrorist attacks" against Israeli civilians and urged both sides to stop the violence.

Palestinian reactions

There have been more than 20 stabbings attacks since the violence started escalating around Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site, the Al-Aqsa mosque, earlier this month. Most of them were committed by young Palestinians apparently acting on their own, which has made it difficult for Israeli police to predict and prevent the attacks.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas spoke out against the violence, but also called for Al-Aqsa to be "defended" from Israel. The Islamist movement Hamas meanwhile praised the stabbings, calling them "heroic."

Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Palestinian and Islamic leaders of incitement and spreading lies.

"I tell the Palestinian Authority, do not turn murderers into heroes," he said.

The increasing violence has stirred fears of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising, 18 months after the latest attempt at peace talks collapsed.

ss, dj/hr (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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