John Kerry, US secretary of state, has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan for talks aimed at calming a wave of violence gripping Israel and the occupied territories.
The meeting in Amman came on Thursday, just hours after fresh clashes broke out in East Jerusalem where Israeli police fired tear gas, percussion bombs and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian demonstrators.
Months-long unrest in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem has in recent days spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.
The meeting between Abbas and Kerry, who arrived in Jordan late on Wednesday, came a day after Israel approved plans for another 200 settler homes in East Jerusalem, a move sharply criticised by the US.
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories are considered illegal under international law.
Kerry and Abbas embraced and had a brief whispered exchange as they met at the Palestinian leader’s hillside home in Amman.
Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been prompted by Israeli moves to step up settlement activity in the city’s eastern sector and by religious tensions at al-Aqsa compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Earlier, a tense confrontation erupted in the city’s Issawiya neighbourhood as about 100 residents, including schoolchildren, tried to block a main road after police closed off several neighbourhood entrances with concrete blocks.
A local activist denounced the blocks as “collective punishment” against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have also been angered by a far-right Jewish campaign for prayer rights at al-Aqsa compound, although Israel insists it has no plans to change the decades-old status quo.