The U.N. Secretary-GeneralAntonio Guterres hopes an agreement can be reached to protect Palestinians in the occupied West Bank after Israel said it would suspend the mandate of an international observation mission. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Saturday said Guterres was "grateful" to the five countries that contributed to conflict prevention and the protection of Palestinians under the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) for the past 22 years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday he would not extend its mandate, accusing it of bias. Palestinian officials labeled the move a "green light" for Israeli settlers in the city to carry out abuses. "I think nations should stand tall against this," PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat said. He said Israeli settlers and soldiers had committed "40,000 attacks and violations against the Palestinian people in Hebron" since the TIPH was formed, without giving a source for the figure. "Imagine what will they do without the presence of this force," he said. He asked for the U.N. to deploy a permanent international force in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Earlier Friday, the foreign ministers of Turkey and the other countries that contribute to TIPH condemned the Israeli move and said it violated the Oslo Accords. The TIPH was established pursuant to the provisions of the 1995 Interim Agreement, known as the Oslo II Accord, between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Turkey on Friday "strongly" condemned Israel's decision not to renew TIPH's mandate. "We strongly condemn Israel's unilateral termination of the mandate of TIPH, the multilateral observation mission in Hebron, Palestine," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement urging reversal of the decision.
The ministry "decisively" rejected Israel's claims that the group was working against Israel and accused Israel of using these claims as rationalization for its decision.
"The TIPH, in which observers from Turkey have participated since it started operations in 1997, has made valuable contributions to easing the tension in Hebron under Israeli occupation," the ministry added.
The circumstances in Hebron leading to the establishment of the TIPH still exist, the ministry said. "Within this context, it is clear that the termination of the TIPH does not end Israel's accountability or its obligations under international law, first and foremost from the Fourth Geneva Convention," it added, calling on the international community to guarantee Israel's compliance with these obligations.
Turkey has observers in the Norway-led team tasked with promoting security for Palestinians in Hebron, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews and has been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Norway-led team is comprised of 64 observers tasked with promoting security for Palestinians in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank. Its mission was created after 29 Palestinian worshipers in a mosque were gunned down by an American-born Israeli settler. Observers carry out daily patrols and document rights abuses they witness, although they are not allowed to intervene.
Israel's decision to eject observers in Hebron may be a breach of the implementation of the Oslo accords, the Norwegian foreign minister said Tuesday. "The one-sided Israeli decision can mean that the implementation of an important part of the Oslo accords is discontinued," Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said in a statement to Reuters. "The situation in Hebron is unstable and characterized by conflict," she said, adding that the end of the observer mission, which Norway has led for the past 22 years, was therefore "worrying."