Following Israel’s expulsion of UN observers from the occupied West Bank yesterday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has requested the international body to ensure the safety of Palestinians until Israel ends it “belligerent occupation”.
The UN should “guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine” until “the end of Israel’s belligerent occupation,” said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.
The top diplomat made the remarks in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to renew the mandate of the international observatory task force that has been monitoring the situation in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron for twenty years.
Known as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), the UN monitoring group was established in 1997 as part of the Oslo Accords’ Hebron Protocol. A report published by the UN observers in December found that Israel regularly broke international law in Hebron, which is home to 200,000 Palestinians and around 1,000 illegal Israeli settlers.
Palestinian residents of Hebron often say that they are living under an apartheid Israeli system. The Old City of Hebron is completely divided through the presence of barriers, closures, military zones and settlements, to accommodate some of Israel’s most extreme settlers.
Details of the report – which was published by Haaretz – said that Israel was clearly in “severe and regular breach” of the right to non-discrimination, as well as the obligation to protect the population living under occupation from deportation. The Israeli settlement in Hebron is a violation of international law and “radical Israeli settlers” make life in the Israeli-controlled area difficult for its Palestinian residents, the report added.
Over 40,000 “incident reports” were compiled over the years TIPH has monitored Hebron, with the organisation concluding that Hebron is moving in the opposite direction to that which was agreed upon by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the Hebron Protocol.
In a statement announcing his decision to expel the UN group, Netanyahu said: “We will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us.”
Erekat called Netanyahu’s announcement “an additional step towards Israel’s nullification of all signed treaties” and “further evidence that Israel is a rogue state that abhors international legitimacy and places itself above and beyond international order and the international community”.
The PA representative accused Netanyahu of taking advantage of the upcoming Israeli general election, which is slated to take place on 9 April. “As part of their parliamentary elections, Israeli politicians are waging an immoral dehumanization campaign against Palestine and the Palestinians that constitutes an imminent danger to our safety and security,” he charged.
No UN response to the PA’s plea to extend the stay of international observers has been reported, but the UN human rights office in Geneva, Switzerland was quoted as saying that Israel – as the occupying power – must protect Palestinian civilians from settler violence in the occupied West Bank, while decrying an attack in which a Palestinian father of four was killed over the weekend.