Amid rising fears of deadly attacks against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, activists Sunday launched a campaign aimed at protecting local residents against settler attacks in the West Bank city of Hebron. "The campaign aims to provide protection to local residents around the clock," Mohamed Zghayyar, a spokesman for the non-governmental organization Youth Coalition against Settlements, told Anadolu Agency. Zghayyar said Palestinians in Hebron are facing repeated attacks and assaults by settlers and Israeli forces on a daily basis. "Activists are working around the clock to document [Israeli] violations and expose practices of the Israeli occupation," he added.
The move followed Israel's refusal to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). Foreign ministers from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey expressed regret at Israel's announcement in December that it would not renew TIPH's mandate which expired on Jan. 31 and stressed Israel's obligation to protect the people in Hebron and other Palestinian areas.
Norway, which has headed the multi-country observer mission for the past 22 years, said, "The one-sided Israeli decision can mean that the implementation of an important part of the Oslo accords is discontinued."
Earlier, Turkey strongly condemned Israel's decision not to renew TIPH's mandate, saying that the international observation group has "made valuable contributions to easing the tension in Hebron under Israeli occupation."
Amid fears of a repetition of the 1994 Hebron massacre, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been left unprotected after Israel, with backing from the U.S. at the U.N. Security Council, suspended a foreign observer mission. TIPH was established in 1994 following Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city that triggered riots across Palestinian areas. The mosque is located at the site that is also revered by Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. A Security Council resolution adopted in March 1994 strongly condemned the Hebron massacre and called for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians, which led to the monitoring mission. In its latest form, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey provided unarmed observers and funded the mission in Hebron. Hebron, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews and has been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is currently home to some 160,000 Palestinian Muslims and around 500 Jewish settlers. The latter live in a series of Jewish-only enclaves heavily guarded by Israeli troops.