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State Dept. 'A Bit Concerned' About 'Terrible Tragedy' of Palestinian Terrorism

Ezra Schwartz, pictured at center

The State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry finally called the Massachusetts family of a teen killed last week in a West Bank terror attack.

But that was just a couple of days after a State Department official, previewing Kerry’s visit this week to the Middle East, said the administration was just “a bit concerned” about attacks on Americans by Palestinians.

President Obama and Kerry have been mum on the attack in which Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Mass., was killed Thursday.

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.

Speaking on a background call with reporters Saturday, the senior State Department official said the trip would be a “good opportunity” for Kerry to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “talk about a range of bilateral issues following up on conversations that we had in Washington that covered, obviously, Syria, Daesh, and the normal things you’d imagine we’d have to talk about with the Israelis.”

That includes calling on “both sides to take concrete steps to demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.”

“We were happy to see that the violence seemed to have abated somewhat over the course of the last few weeks since we were there,” the official said. “But then you obviously saw the violence spike back up again – five people killed, it’s a terrible tragedy, including an American citizen. We’re a bit concerned about that and said so publicly.”

Today at the State Department, spokesman Mark Toner was grilled by a reporter at the daily briefing about why, “when the president and the vice president spoke about American victims of terrorism last week, they mentioned the Americans who died in Mali and in Paris, but didn’t mention the American who died in the West Bank.”

Of Schwartz, Toner said Kerry “did reach out to his family personally today.”

“I don’t want to necessarily parse out the definition of ‘terrorism,’ but we — yes, I think we would view them as terrorist attacks,” Toner added.

At the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu stressed “this is not terrorism by organizations, this is terrorism by individuals, occasionally with kitchen knives, who are incited mainly by social media.”

“It is very difficult to hermetically prevent the arrival of such knife-wielding, or other, terrorists to this or that place. Therefore, in addition to the actions that we are taking in the centers of terrorism themselves, in addition to the actions by the security forces, citizens must be on maximum alert,” he said. “I must say that we are showing such awareness, with considerable resourcefulness and courage, and this is deserving of all praise. We are still fighting and will continue to do so. This struggle has continued for nearly 100 years, but we will overcome this wave as well.”

A Hamas spokesman hailed the attack that killed Schwarz as “an act of bravery.”

The New England Patriots planned to honor Schwartz, a big fan of the team, during Monday night’s game with a moment of silence.