US Secretary of State John Kerry walks at the State Department in Washington October 2.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A State Department spokesman in Washington said US authorities were "deeply concerned" about the incident in which Jewish settlers threw stones at the cars of a US diplomatic delegation which came to inspect vandalism to nearby Palestinian-owned trees in the West Bank on Friday.
"We can confirm a vehicle from the Consulate General was pelted with stones and confronted by a group of armed settlers today in the West Bank, near the Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya," said the US State Department spokesman according to AFP.
An Israeli police spokeswoman said the delegation arrived at Adei Ad in US diplomatic cars without first having coordinated the visit with Israeli authorities. She said the purpose of the trip was to inspect nearby trees that had been uprooted in what their Palestinian owners suspect was vandalism by Jewish settlers.
"Rocks were thrown at them by residents of Adei Ad. We are investigating. Arrests have yet to be made," the spokeswoman said. She said she did not know of any damage to the vehicles and had no further information on the delegates' identities.
An Adei Ad resident who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said that he had not witnessed the incident but had been told by fellow settlers who were involved that the US delegates came within 50 yards (meters) of the settlement in two diplomatic cars accompanied by local Palestinians.
The resident said several settlers went out to confront the group. He declined to confirm or deny that the settlers threw stones, but said two armed diplomatic guards briefly emerged from the cars.
"One had a pistol, the other an M-16, and they pointed them at the settlers," the resident said.
Asked about this account, the Israeli police spokeswoman said: "We have no indication that anyone in the US delegation brandished weapons."
The Adei Ad resident said some 40 families live in the settlement. Around 500,000 Israelis live in such enclaves among 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and which most world powers envisage as part of a future Palestinian state.