The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) evacuated its offices in the city following an attack there yesterday by hundreds of high school students. The students threw stones at the building and shouted their opposition to the governments of Denmark and Norway for the caricatures in European newspapers they said were insulting to the prophet Mohammed. They also broke the windows of parked cars.
A detachment of Palestinian police officers confronted the youths, but did not prevent them from breaking into TIPH headquarters, where they vandalized furniture and computers. Israel Defense Forces soldiers subsequently arrived and together with additional Palestinian police were able to eject the youths.
TIPH, a group of unarmed civilian observers stationed in the city since the 1998 Hebron Agreement, decided on a "temporary evacuation" of its headquarters. Six countries, among them Turkey, Norway and Sweden, make up the force which numbers a few dozen, and whose mandate is to document the activities of the IDF, the settlers and the Palestinians in the city.
A number of TIPH observers pulled out of Hebron last week in fear they would be harmed, but after talks between the TIPH and the Palestinian organizations in Hebron, and publication of apologies in the name of TIPH over the caricatures in Palestinian papers, the observers believed the storm had blown over.