Palestinians petition UN to deploy observer force in West Bank

The U.N. should “guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine” until “the end of Israel’s belligerent occupation,” said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.
Tuesday 29/01/2019
Members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) are seen in the West Bank city on January 29, 2019. (AFP)
Members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) are seen in the West Bank city on January 29, 2019. (AFP)

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday asked the United Nations to deploy a permanent international force in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, after Israel announced it was suspending operations of an observer force that had been in the city of Hebron for more than 20 years.

The U.N. should “guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine” until “the end of Israel’s belligerent occupation,” said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Monday it would not extend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, in the West Bank, saying “we will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us.”

TIPH has deployed unarmed civilian observers from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey in Hebron since 1997. They report on violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Hundreds of hard-line Jewish settlers guarded by thousands of soldiers live in the heart of the city, which also has a population of over 200,000 Palestinians.

There was no immediate U.N. reaction to the Palestinian plea. But the U.N. human rights office in Geneva said that Israel “as the occupying power” must protect Palestinian civilians from settler violence in the West Bank, decrying an attack in which a Palestinian father of four was killed over the weekend.

Spokesman Rupert Colville said Tuesday that 38-year-old Hamdi Naasan was “shot in the back and killed” in the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah.

Colville said U.N. staffers reported the shooting after up to 30 Israeli farmers, some of them armed, attacked Palestinian farmers in their fields and used live ammunition to shoot at villagers and their houses. Colville said about 20 villagers were wounded in the course of the day, amid a recent “surge of settler violence” in the West Bank that he said has reached its highest levels since 2015.

However, there have been conflicting accounts about Saturday’s incident. The settlers say a Jewish man was stabbed by Palestinians and they fired in the air while chasing away the attackers.

The Israeli police and military have launched investigations into the incidents. The violence came days after Israel charged a Jewish teenager with manslaughter in the death of a Palestinian woman in the West Bank.

(AP)