Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Palestinians launch own protection force in Hebron after Israel forces out monitors

Activists walked children to school to protect them from settlers after international observers leave

An Israeli settler (R) argues with Palestinians wearing blue vests marking them as 'Observers' during a protest against the end of the mandate for the civilian Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) in the West Bank city of Hebron, 10 February 2019. EPA
An Israeli settler (R) argues with Palestinians wearing blue vests marking them as 'Observers' during a protest against the end of the mandate for the civilian Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) in the West Bank city of Hebron, 10 February 2019. EPA

Palestinian activists have launched their own protection and monitoring force in Hebron after Israel chose to not renew the mandate of international observers in the occupied West Bank city.

The unit was formed after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month that he would not renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) after 20 years, accusing its staff of being biased towards settlers. The mission departed at the end of January.

The group of volunteers wore blue vests with ‘monitor’ written in Arabic, English and Hebrew as they walked children to school.

The new group has formed by Issa Amro, an activist who advocates for peaceful resistance against Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise based on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Mr Amro regularly faces assault and harassment from Israeli settlers.

After the new observer group took to the streets of Hebron, he posted a video that showed an Israeli woman from a Jewish settlement slapping him in the face as Israeli soldiers look on.

Several thousand Israeli soldiers protect around 600 Israeli settlers in outposts on the hilltops of the city where 200,000 Palestinians live. Religious Jewish settlers view Hebron as one of the holiest cities in Judaism.

TIPH was tasked with monitoring Israeli violations in Hebron. It was formed after religious settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian Muslims at the city’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. The force was unarmed and largely created reports about Israeli violations.

Israel said that TIPH staff members had acted against the Israeli community in Hebron. The majority of the international community does not recognise Israel’s presence in Hebron and considers it to be illegal under international law.

In response to the end of the TIPH mission, the Palestinians asked the United Nations to deploy a permanent international force in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the UN should "guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine" until "the end of Israel's belligerent occupation".

Updated: February 11, 2019 02:10 PM

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