State Dept. 'Obviously Saddened' by American Teen's Murder, 'Deeply Concerned' About Israeli Settlements

State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today that “obviously” Secretary of State John Kerry was “deeply saddened ” to hear of the death of an American teen in a West Bank attack, and “we’re, obviously, concerned by it.”

Kerry did not issue any statement on the murder of Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Mass. He issued Friday statements on the terrorist attack in Mali and to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance “to honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost to senseless acts of violence based on hatred and prejudice against the transgender community.”

Schwartz was a gap-year student attending Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh. He was in a van with five other friends taking food to IDF soldiers Thursday near the Gush Etzion junction when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on cars stuck in traffic. The terrorist then rammed his car into another vehicle and was arrested.

Yaakov Don, 49, a teacher and father of four, and Palestinian Shadi Arafeh, 24, of Hebron were also killed in the attack.

“We’re going to continue to, you know, monitor the situation and the circumstances as best we can. And our hearts and prayers, obviously, go out to the family,” Kirby said.

Kirby was pressed on whether the State Department considered Schwartz a victim of a terrorist attack or some other “criminal act.”

“We do believe about the death of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen from Massachusetts who was murdered in a terrorist attack on Thursday, while in Israel to pursue his studies. Again, we extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends and the community, as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday’s tragic events,” the spokesman replied.

“The secretary is also concerned about the five other American citizens who were victims of the attacks and wishes each of them a full and complete recovery. We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, these outrageous terrorist attacks. These tragic incidents underscore the importance of taking affirmative steps to restore calm.”

“This seems like an awful lot of Americans to be killed or injured, no?” a reporter asked.

“Well, it’s obviously disconcerting. I — we don’t want to see that. If you’re asking me if I can draw a line of causation here or intent or motive, I can’t,” Kirby responded.

He said there had been contact with Israelis about the attacks “just to discuss the incident with them and to get their views and perspectives,” but he was “not aware” of any communications with Palestinian leadership regarding killed and injured Americans.

Kirby added a minute later that “we remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements, including construction, planning and retroactive legalizations.”

“We remain unequivocally opposed to these kinds of unilateral steps and seek to prejudge the outcome of negotiations,” he said. “The president has made clear that the parties much demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. Contentious action, such as the announcement — this announcement demonstrate just the opposite. They are going to have detrimental effects on the ground and increase already heightened tensions with the Palestinians and further isolate Israel internationally.”

“At this sensitive time, we call on all parties to redouble their efforts to restore trust and competence, promote calm and return to a path of peace.”