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Deiss condemns West Bank killing

The TIPH car was clearly marked Keystone

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has condemned the killing of a Swiss observer in the Israeli Occupied Territories.

This content was published on March 27, 2002 - 15:37

At a press conference on Wednesday, Deiss extended his condolences to the 25-year-old woman's family and called for a full inquiry into her death.

Catherine Berruex from canton Vaud was shot dead along with a Turkish co-worker, Turtug Cengiz Toytunc, in an attack outside the town of Hebron.

Three observers, who worked for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) mission, were travelling by car to Tel Aviv, when they heard gunfire and stopped their vehicle.

"A gunman was standing approximately five metres from them," Nana Almark, the press officer for TIPH told swissinfo. "One of the observers in the back was hiding under the set. When he heard the shooting stop he realised that the Turkish man, who is deputy head of operations, was dead."

The un-identified gunman kept firing even though the three people shouted in English and Arabic that they were international observers.

Toytunc was killed in the attack and Berruex was injured. The other observer pulled Berruex from the car.

Israeli Defence Forces then arrived on the scene and a gun battle ensued during which Berruex was killed.

Another Turkish colleague was injured during the attack and is recovering in a West Jerusalem hospital.

Observer mission

The observers were working for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), a civil mission made up of members from Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Turkey. There are eight Swiss observers and the mission is run by Norway.

Following the attack the TIPH mission was suspended and all 85 observers were advised to stay where they were till further notice. The advice was however lifted late on Tuesday.

The Turkish observer who survived said a Palestinian gunman had shot at the vehicle at close range.

He told Israeli radio that the attacker was wearing a Palestinian police force uniform, and had opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle, even though the car was clearly marked as an observer vehicle.

The Palestinian Authority blamed the attack on the Israeli army.

"TIPH is investigating what happened, we are following it up and trying to figure out who did it but so far we have no inform about who is behind it," Almark said.

Palestinian uprising

It is the first time foreign monitors have been killed since the Palestinian uprising or Intifada erupted in September 2000. Almark said it was a tragedy.

The observers carry out their work unarmed and only have helmets and bullet-proof vests to protect them. They have to seek shelter behind walls and in buildings if a gun battle breaks out.

The incident happened shortly after Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, said he would not attend the Arab League summit in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, this week.

swissinfo with agencies

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