Countries contributing to an international observer group tasked with safeguarding Palestinians in the flashpoint city of al-Khalil (Hebron) in the West Bank have denounced Israel’s unilateral decision not to renew the mandate of the task force.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) would not be extended, claiming that the monitoring mission “acts against” the Tel Aviv regime.
In a joint statement released on Friday, the foreign ministers of the countries that provide observers to the TIPH — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey — stressed that Netanyahu’s move “undermines one of the few established mechanisms for conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians and may therefore have a negative impact on the situation.”
“We regret the unilateral decision,” they said. “The Israeli decision to withdraw from the agreement with the PLO and thereby terminate the TIPH constitutes a departure from the Oslo II Accord of 1995,” referring to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The mission was established following an agreement reached between the Tel Aviv regime and the PLO in 1994, when an Israeli settler killed 29 Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil.
The group did not start its work in the city until 1998, after the Israeli military refused to leave al-Khalil following the establishment of an illegal Israeli settlement at the heart of the city.
TIPH’s mandate is renewed every six months. Its latest mandate ended on January 31.
In their statement, the countries also stressed that the TIPH had “diligently fulfilled its mandate as requested by both parties, and thus contributed to preventing violence and promoting a feeling of security for the population in Hebron.”
Rejecting Netanyahu’s claim
They rejected “any claim that the TIPH has acted against Israel,” saying that such accusations were “unacceptable and ungrounded.”
UN urges protection of Palestinians
On Saturday, the United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed hope that an agreement could be reached to protect Palestinians in the occupied West Bank after Israel’s expulsion of international monitors from al-Khalil.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Guterres was “grateful” to the countries that had contributed to conflict prevention under the TIPH for the past 22 years.
Similarly, the European Union issued a statement opposing Israel’s al-Khalil move, saying it risked “further deteriorating the already fragile situation on the ground.”
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat also called Netanyahu’s announcement “an additional step towards Israel’s nullification of all signed treaties.” He called Israel a “rogue” regime.