Kerry calls for end to 'senseless' violence in Israel, rejects push for international monitors

Secretary of State John Kerry called for a halt to what he described as "senseless" violence in Israel and the West Bank while also rejecting calls for an international presence at the Jerusalem holy site at the center of the escalating tension.

"We don't contemplate any change, but nor does Israel," Kerry told reporters at a news conference in Madrid. "Israel understands the importance of that status quo. What is important is to make sure everybody understands what that means. We are not seeking some new change. We are not seeking outsiders or others to come in."

France has proposed action at the United Nations that could see an international presence to ensure the status quo at the at the hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine and a key national symbol for the Palestinians. Jews are allowed to visit but not pray.

Kerry noted that not only are the U.S. and Israel opposed to the move, so is Jordan, which governs the agreement regarding the site. His statement echoed one made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Sunday Cabinet meeting.

"We are preserving the status quo," Netanyahu said of the situation at the site. "We are the only ones doing that, and will continue to do this responsibly and seriously."

More On This...

    Kerry will be meeting this week with Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah and he said they would be looking "to be able to find a way of making certain that everybody is clear with what is happening with respect to the Temple Mount."

    Meanwhile, police identified Sunday's assailant of an Israeli bus station attack as 21-year-old Mohannad al-Okbi, an Arab citizen from the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel.

    Al-Okbi was shot and killed in the attack. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri says security officers arrested one of al-Okbi's relatives on suspicion that he assisted the attacker.

    The Israeli security agency Shin Bet said Monday al-Okbi had no past record of involvement in militant activity.

    Police say the attacker was armed with a gun and knife and opened fire in a southern Israeli bus station, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding 10 people. An Eritrean migrant was also killed in the attack after an Israeli security guard fired at him, apparently thinking he was an assailant.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Click for more from The Jerusalem Post.