West Bank: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he would eject a foreign force set up to help safeguard Palestinians in a flashpoint city in the occupied West Bank, accusing the observers of anti-Israel activity.
“We will not allow the continued presence of an international force that acts against us,” Netanyahu said in a statement announcing that the Temporary International Presence in Hebron’s (TIPH) mandate would not be renewed.
TIPH was established in 1994 as an international invention following a massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque. On 25 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a settler and IDF reserve medic entered into the Ibrahimi Mosque and killed 29 worshippers and injured another 125. Goldstein was killed by survivors in the attack.
The massacre triggered riots across the occupied Palestinian territory and in Hebron (Al Khalil) another 25 Palestinians were killed by the Israel Security Forces in the following days.
The statement did not elaborate on the alleged misconduct of TIPH, which draws staff from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. The TIPH website says the force works on six-month mandates but did not specify when the current one expires.
A force spokesman declined comment. Palestinians denounced the move.
“The Israeli government’s decision means it has abandoned the implementation of agreements signed under international auspices, and given up its obligations under these agreements,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose peace talks with Netanyahu stalled in 2014.
Conservative Israeli commentators had accused the TIPH of agitating against Jewish colonists who live under heavy Israeli army protection in Al Khalil, a biblical city with an overwhelmingly Palestinian populace.
Al Khalil is a Palestinian city, 30 km south of Jerusalem and the largest city in the West Bank, and second largest in the Palestinian territories after Gaza, it has a population of 215,452 Palestinians and between 500 and 850 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims all venerate the city of Al Khalil for its association with Abraham – it includes the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs, within the Cave of the Patriarchs. Judaism ranks Al Khalil or as they call it Hebron as the second-holiest city after Jerusalem, while some Muslims regard it as one of the four holy cities.
Since Israel partially withdrew from Al Khalil in 1998 under interim peace deals with the self-rule Palestinian National Authority, the TIPH has “observe[d] and report[ed] on breaches of the agreements [and] violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” the force’s website says.
Most world powers consider Israel’s colonies in the West Bank, where Palestinians want a state, to be illegal. Israel disputes this, and the rightist Netanyahu has played up his pro-colonistcredentials as he seeks reelection in an April 9 ballot.
“They want to uproot us from here. They will not,” he said in separate remarks on Monday at another West Bank colony.
“There’s a line of thought that says that the way to achieve peace with the Arabs is to be extirpated from our land. That is the certain path to achieving the opposite of this dream.”