JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel will not extend the mandate of a civilian observer force in Hebron.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday evening that he had made the decision to discontinue the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH, which has operated in Hebron for more than 20 years.
“We will not allow the presence of an international force that operates against us,” he said in a statement.
The force’s mandate must be renewed every six months by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Its current renewal ends on Jan. 31.
The international force is made up of more than 60 civilian observers from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. It was established in 1997, as part of the Oslo Accords’ Hebron agreement, which put 80 per cent of the city under the control of the Palestinian Authority and the other 20 per cent under Israel’s control.
The Jewish community of Hebron has called for the ouster of TIPH, as did Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. He cited a recent report by Israeli police in the territories saying that the observers “disrupt standard inspection procedures of the Palestinian population” going through checkpoints manned by the Israeli military.
Defenders of the observers, including the Arab League, say they help curb aggressive Israeli action against the Palestinian residents of Hebron.
In July, a TIPH observer from Switzerland was ordered to leave Israel after slapping a 10-year-old boy in Hebron. A month earlier, a video surfaced showing a TIPH observer slashing the tires of a Jewish resident of Hebron.
Between 500 and 1,000 Jews live in Hebron, which has more than 200,000 Palestinian residents.