Switzerland says it has taken note of Israel’s decision to end the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) civilian observer mission. The foreign ministry says it is holding consultations with the other countries of the mission.
This comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced that he would not renew the mandate of the TIPHexternal link, accusing it of unspecified anti-Israeli activity.
The TIPH, which has been present in the flashpoint West Bank city for 22 years, is made up of unarmed observers from five countries: Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey. It has 64 international staff in the city, according to its website. Its mandate is to monitor “breaches of the agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on Hebron, as well as violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law”.
Norway, which heads the mission, expressed concern at the Israeli decision, saying it was one-sided and “can mean that the implementation of an important part of the Oslo accords is discontinued”.
“The situation in Hebron is unstable and characterized by conflict,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told Reuters.
The UN has also said it regrets Israel’s decision.
“While the TIPH is not a United Nations body, its role in contributing positively to defusing tensions in such a sensitive area has been widely recognized,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Palestinians have reacted angrily, saying Israel is trying to rid Hebron of witnesses to its actions in the occupied West Bank. They are calling for a UN presence there. Israeli settlers have welcomed the move. They have accused the mission of harassing and agitating against them.
Hebron, a city of some 200,000 people, is home to about 1,000 Israeli settlers who are heavily guarded by an Israeli military presence.
swissinfo and agencies/jc