18 Feb 2019

Credit: AFP

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) expresses its deep concern about the escalation of violence taking place in Hebron, as a consequence of Israeli authorities’ announcement on the 28th of January 2019 not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) and the resulting departure of the observer civil mission, which took place on the 31st of January.

TIPH was established in order to assist Israel and Palestinian Authority’s efforts to improve security in Hebron, in reaction to the massacre of 29 Palestinians by a settler in 1994 and subsequent clashes. The city has always been an extremely unstable area, the most violent and heavily contested one of the West Bank.

For this reason, the mandate of TIPH was to observe and report on breaches of the agreement between the two governments on Hebron, as well as on violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Although they were not allowed to intervene, their presence all year round and seven days a week was aimed at creating a feeling of security to the Palestinians and a general stability in the city.

GICJ, from its sources in the city, noted that although clashes and episodes of violence involving Palestinians, settlers and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) have never stopped completely, the TIPH presence was an effective mechanism of conflict prevention and was successfully achieving the aim of creating a sense of safety to Palestinians.

GICJ therefore believes that Israel’s decision constitutes a serious threat to the security of civilians and that it will increase the limitations imposed on the daily life of Palestinian civilians by settlers, therefore their segregation.

Since the mission left the city, a clear escalation of violence has taken place in Hebron. The second week of February 2019 witnessed several episodes of violence which stressed the requirement of a prompt emergency response.

For example, on the 12th of February a group of Israeli settlers under the Israeli forces’ protection, from outposts in Hebron’s Old City, started uprisings and sang racists slogans against Palestinians on al-Shohadah Street and in Tal al-Rameeda area. They then organized a demonstration passing through different areas chanting racist slogans calling for killing Arabs and expelling them out of their houses. They attacked peaceful civilians and generated panic among residents while heavily hitting their doors. A group of settlers threatened to kill a Palestinian family after invading its home.

Following the withdrawal of TIPH, local human rights monitoring groups have been established by Youth Against Settlements, with the aim of filling the gap created by the absence of an international mission. Their intention is to ensure the security of Palestinians civilians and to increase the sense of security to children, who are often scared to walk to school, especially when they have to cross Israel’s checkpoints. Thus, the group faced harassment from settlers and constraints by the IDF.

Picture: Youth Against Settlements Facebook page

GICJ supports the idea that the presence of a local group is significant in order to monitor, also by filming, acts of violence as well as increase the sense of security and protection to civilians. It carries out an important role especially on the most vulnerable people, such as women and children. However, we believe that an international observer mission is highly needed for the well-being of the Palestinian community. Indeed, the neutrality of its mandate and the impact they can have on the international community by testifying violations of the international law would more effectively achieve the aim of conflict prevention.

It is unfortunate that the US blocked a UN Security Council statement expressing regret over the situation and stressing the importance of the TIPH’s mandate in such a sensitive area.  The Foreign Ministers of the TIPH Contributing Countries (Norway, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey) expressed their regret on Israel’s unilateral decision not to renew the mandate.

GICJ therefore calls on the UN bodies, especially on the Security Council, for the urgent establishment of an international observer mission in the city, directly reporting to the UN, in order to immediately stop the increase of violence taking place in Hebron. We also call on the UN bodies to put pressure on Israel to implement all the UN Resolutions and to respect the fundamental right of Palestinians to live in peace.

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Hate speech, Hebron, Palestine, Justice, Human rights, International Humanitarian Law, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre For Justice

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