After Israel suspends Hebron observers, Palestinians call for permanent UN force
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After Israel suspends Hebron observers, Palestinians call for permanent UN force

PA official Saeb Erekat calls Netanyahu’s decision to not extend TIPH’s mandate ‘evidence that Israel is a rogue state’

Saeb Erekat speaks to journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 1, 2018. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Saeb Erekat speaks to journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 1, 2018. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

A top Palestinian official on Tuesday asked the United Nations to deploy a permanent international force in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a day after Israel said it would not extend the operations of a temporary observer force in the city of Hebron after more than 20 years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Monday it would not extend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, an international observer group, following a number of incidents over the past year in which its members scrapped with settlers in the flashpoint West Bank city.

“We will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat responded in a statement that the UN should “guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine not only ensuring the continued presence of TIPH in Hebron but also to deploy permanent international presence in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, until the end of Israel’s belligerent occupation.”

Erekat called Netanyahu’s announcement “an additional step towards Israel’s nullification of all signed treaties” and “further evidence that Israel is a rogue state that abhors international legitimacy and places itself above and beyond international order and the international community.”

“As part of their parliamentary elections, Israeli politicians are waging an immoral dehumanization campaign against Palestine and the Palestinians that constitutes an imminent danger to our safety and security,” he charged.

Illustrative: Observers of TIPH, an international monitor group, walk in a street of Hebron on November 19, 2007. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

TIPH is an international civilian observer group that, according to its mandate, was tasked with “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron.” It also reported alleged human rights abuses and violations of accords in the city between Israel and Palestinians. Observers for the group came from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey. TIPH had roughly a dozen staff operating locally and an additional 64 working abroad.

The group had been operating since 1994, and had been ensuring compliance with the Hebron Agreement of 1997.

Signed by Netanyahu and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, the protocol divided the West Bank’s most populous city into two sections: H1, which includes 80 percent of the city and lies under full Palestinian control, and H2, which is under Israeli military control, and where several hundred Israeli settlers live in heavily guarded compounds surrounded by 40,000 Palestinians whose movements are heavily limited.

IDF soldiers speak with a young Jewish boy in the divided West Bank city of Hebron, November 6, 2015 (Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90)

Because the group by definition is considered to be temporary, the Hebron Agreement required Israel to renew the mandate of the observers every six months. While TIPH has long been loathed by local settlers, the group has remained due to Israel’s willingness to maintain favorable relations with the participatory countries.

But over the past year, pressure by settler leaders and right-wing lawmakers to end the observers’ mandate increased significantly.

Last July, Hadashot TV news aired security camera footage that showed a uniformed member of TIPH slashing the tires of an Israeli settler in Hebron.

A screenshot from video of a Swiss member of the TIPH civilian monitoring group slapping a Jewish boy during a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron on June 11, 2018. (Screen capture: Hadashot TV news)

Earlier that month, a separate video emerged of a TIPH staffer slapping a young Jewish boy across the face, sending his skullcap flying.

The observer group expelled both of the members following internal probes into the filmed incidents.

While no incidents as flagrant were recorded over the last six months, pressure to oust TIPH from Hebron continued to intensify.

Last week, police issued a report claiming that TIPH members were “deliberately creating friction to justify their high salary.”

The report also claimed that the group was disrupting IDF soldiers’ work vetting Palestinians at local checkpoints and regularly confronting troops.

TIPH officials did not respond to The Times of Israel’s repeated requests for comment.

Jacob Magid and AP contributed to this report.

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