The United States yesterday called for an end to violent unrest on the occupied Arab West Bank and Gaza Strip in a statement that was unusually critical of Israel. The statement strongly suggested that the 20-year-old Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was at the heart of the problem.
``We view the continuing violence in the occupied territories with serious concern,'' said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, who added that President Reagan was personally involved in efforts to end the violence.
The wave of anti-Israeli unrest has left at least 22 people dead in the last two weeks.
``The effects of the occupation are not felt in the territories alone. They also damage the self-respect and world opinion of the Israeli people,'' the presidential spokesman said.
``It is time for both sides to step back from confrontation before there are more tragic casualties,'' said Mr. Fitzwater, who condemned ``violent demonstrations and riots on the one side'' and ``harsh security measures and excessive use of live ammunition on the other.''
Fitzwater said President Reagan was monitoring the situation very carefully and had been in communication ``with Israel and some of the Arab nations.'' He said US officials in contact with Israel had expressed concern about the use of live ammunition to quell the disturbances.
He told reporters the US was also in touch with Palestinian leaders in the territories, but he refused to identify who the leaders were.
Fitzwater declined to say if the US would veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel's actions in trying to control the wave of unrest.
Asked what had prompted the US statement, which came as Israeli officials said they would beef up Israel's military presence in the territories, Fitzwater replied: ``The situation has not resolved itself. Tensions have not lessened. It becomes more serious all the time.''