Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Save the Children warned Thursday that “hundreds of civilians, including children, will see their safety put at risk by the withdrawal of international observers deployed in the city of Hebron”.
In a joint statement, the international NGOs condemned the Israeli government’s decision last month to decline to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
According to the NGOs, the removal of the international observer force “threatens the already fragile security situation and risks contributing to a rapid decline in the city’s stability”.
Save the Children Regional Director, Jeremy Stoner, said: “Palestinian children attending schools near Israeli settler communities in Hebron have experienced threats and violence from settlers for years. The role of the TIPH and other international observers has been very important in reducing confrontations and ensuring children’s safety and access to education”.
“Just last week, we visited one of the schools in Hebron, and the headmistress told Save the Children that staff and students felt exposed and vulnerable without international observers accompanying the children,” he added.
Oxfam Country Director, Chris Eijkemans, said: “This move will exacerbate an already volatile situation, increase impunity for human rights abuses and put civilians in more danger. Decisions like this pave the way for further settlement expansion and annexation of Palestinian land. It is a dangerous green light for more violence and abuse of international law, making any prospect of a peaceful, just and lasting resolution for Palestinians and Israelis increasingly remote”.
NRC Deputy Regional Director, Maureen Magee, said: “Short of dismantling the system of closures, restrictions and checkpoints affecting Palestinians in Hebron, the Israeli government is responsible for ensuring the unhindered passage of civilians, including students and school staff, through checkpoints on their way to and from schools. Israel must ensure that schools are protected, safe places for children. We see from our work in Hebron’s schools how children are traumatised by harassment and violence. Left unchecked, this will leave long-lasting scars”.