Israel to Expel International Monitoring Force in Hebron After 20-year Presence

Haaretz recently covered a confidential report put out by the Temporary International Presence in Hebron documenting Israel regularly breaking international law in the divided West Bank city

TIPH observers walking past a Palestinian man in Hebron.
Tess Scheflan / JINI

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he will not renew the mandate of the international observatory task force that has been monitoring the divided West Bank city of Hebron for twenty years.

"We will not allow the presence of an international force that operates against us," Netanyahu said Monday.

The force's mandate, which comes up for renewal every six months, was due to come to an end on January 31. 

The military Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said it learned about it from the media.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was established in 1994 following the Goldstein massacare at the Ibrahimi Mosque, when a Jewish man entered the Tomb of the Patriarchs and murdered 29 Muslims at prayer. Its present form was the result of the Oslo Accords Hebron Protocol, which allowed the partial redeployment of Israeli military forces to the part of the city that remained under its control. 

Hebron: A city divided by the Israeli occupation

The force was later expanded as part of the Wye River Memorandum, signed in 1998 by Netanyahu, then serving his first term as premier, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

During a visit to Paris in November, Netanyahu said he would take a decision in December “with regard to the continuation of TIPH.” Netanyahu has been facing increasing pressure from the right to cancel the observers’ mandate. 

In recent months TIPH has been at the center of negative attention, following two incidents involving the group’s employees, one in which a TIPH worker was filmed, according to the police, puncturing the tires of a vehicle belonging to a settler living in the city, and another in which a Swiss observer was deported from Israel after allegedly slapping a settler boy. Following those incidents, Netanyahu summoned the mission’s chief in July for a meeting.

In December, Haaretz reported on a confidential report that the monitoring force put together, citing numerous violations of international law by Israel that seemed to confirm Hebron’s status as a city torn by both a civilian and military occupation.

The near-100-page-long report was commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of TIPH. The report was based, among other things, on over 40,000 “incident reports” compiled over the years by TIPH’s team. 

TIPH’s report concludes that Hebron is moving in the opposite direction to the one agreed upon by Israel and the PLO in the Hebron Protocol.