Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to expel an international observer group tasked with safeguarding Palestinians in the flashpoint city of al-Khalil (Hebron), in the occupied West Bank, claiming the mission is working against Israel.
Netanyahu announced in a statement on Monday that the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in al-Khalil would not be extended, saying, “We will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us.”
The Israeli premier did not give further details on the alleged misconduct of TIPH, nor did he specify a date for ejecting the international mission.
TIPH is an international civilian observer group that, according to its mandate, “assists in monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron (al-Khalil).”
It also reports alleged human rights abuses and violations of accords in the city between Israel and Palestinians. TIPH observers come from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey.
The mission was deployed in al-Khalil following an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994, when an Israeli settler killed 29 Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
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 is due to end on January 31.
The Palestinians, however, denounced Netanyahu’s decision to expel the monitoring group as “unacceptable.”
The decision “means it has abandoned the implementation of agreements signed under international auspices, and given up its obligations under these agreements, which is rejected and is unacceptable,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday.
The Palestinian official further called on “the countries sponsoring this agreement to take a clear stance” against Israel’s plan and “immediately act to pressure” the regime into respecting international law.
This is proof for the international community that Israel does not respect international resolutions and the agreements signed with it under international auspices, he added.
Meanwhile, leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said Tel Aviv “has imposed physical and legal segregation between the hundreds of settlers and the thousands of Palestinians residents” in al-Khalil.
“This, coupled with violence by settlers” and Israeli forces, “has made life intolerable for Palestinians, leading to a mass exodus and the economic ruin of the downtown area,” said the group.
Since its deployment, TIPH has “observe(d) and report(ed) on breaches of the agreements (and) violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” B’Tselem said.
In December, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that a TIPH investigation of “40,000 incident reports” showed that Israel had violated international law by restricting Palestinian movements in the city.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank in 1967. This is while much of the international community considers the settler units illegal and subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied land.
Also on Monday, Netanyahu visited Gush Etzion, a string of settlements and settlement outposts in the southern West Bank, pledging to continue his support for the Israeli settlers living there.
“They want to uproot us from here. They will not,” Netanyahu said.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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