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Palestinians launch civilian observer force to replace TIPH in Hebron

Un soldat israélien (L) présent alors que des membres de l'organisation palestinienne "Jeunes contre les colonies" accompagnent le 10 février 2019 des enfants à l'école à Hébron, en Cisjordanie occupée, après le retrait des observateurs étrangers
HAZEM BADER (AFP)

Palestinians in the divided West Bank city of Hebron launched an observers mission on Sunday to safeguard resident sfollowing Israel’s expulsion of the international TIPH observer force.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his decision earlier this month not to renew the mandate of the 64-member international force which had been operating in Hebron for over twenty years, accusing the group of "acting against Israel."

“In response to the Israeli decision to terminate TIPH mission in Hebron, Palestinians in Hebron’s Old City launched yesterday an Observers Mission to monitor and provide protection amidst the ongoing harassment and violations by the Israeli occupying forces & settlers,” the Palestinian Liberation Organization wrote on Twitter.

On Monday, a number of photos surfaced on social media showing contentious interactions between the force, who had been tasked to walk Palestinian children to their schools, and settlers in Hebron.

In one video, a Palestinian wearing a blue vest printed with the words “observer” in both English and Hebrew is shown surrounded by Jewish settlers yelling at the observer who is then slapped in the face by a Jewish woman.

The TIPH was first established under a UN Security Council resolution passed in the wake of the 1994 massacre at a Hebron mosque in which an off-duty reserve IDF soldier, who wore a uniform to gain access to the holy site, launched a terror attack on worshipers during Ramadan prayers, killing 29 and injuring 125.

It was later tasked to monitor and report on violations of the Hebron Protocol in 1997, an agreement signed to define the rules regarding the Israeli presence in the West Bank city, which has a majority Palestinian population.

HAZEM BADER (AFP)

Netanyahu accused the civil observer mission of being biased, saying it "worked against Israel" and that the mandate would therefore not be extended.

The move generated international criticism for the ousting, and the United Nations Security Council met last week to discuss the issue at the request of Kuwait and Indonesia.

The Norway-led Hebron mission is comprised of unarmed observers tasked with promoting a sense of security for Palestinians in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank.

On Friday, the four countries contributing staff to TIPH — Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Italy and Turkey — issued a joint statement, expressing their concern over Netanyahu’s decision.

“We are concerned that the Israeli government’s decision undermines one of the few established mechanisms for conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians and may therefore have a negative impact on the situation,” the statement read.

Netanyahu’s decision came after Israeli police and Jewish settlers in the West Bank had complained that TIPH members were “deliberately creating friction to justify their high salary.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had previously urged Netanyahu not to extend the mandate the civil observer mission, saying TIPH members “disturbed IDF soldiers and police, created friction with the settlers, cooperated with extremist organizations and promoted delegitimization of Israel.”

See more:

After expulsion of West Bank observer force, Israel’s commitment to Oslo under fire

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