Swedes keep Hebron observers

The Swedish government has decided to extend the stay of observers in the West Bank town of Hebron, as part of the international civilian observer mission in Hebron (TIPH).

The decision came on the same day that the Israeli Defense Forces lifted the military closure on Jewish areas of Hebron, following days on tension.

Israel’s High Court decision to evict eight Jewish families from Palestinian owned properties in Hebron sparked riots in one of the most ancient cities in the Middle East, and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

The clashes between the settlers and the security forces led to a new round of hostilities between Jews and Palestinians in Hebron which has been divided into two sectors since 1997, one controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the other by the Israelis.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization during the nineties, led to the establishment of an international unarmed observer force – the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) that was established in order to maintain a buffer between the Palestinian Arab population and Jews residing in the ancient Jewish quarter.

It is staffed by personnel from Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

TIPH’s main task is to monitor and report on misconduct by either side in the conflict. It is not allowed to intervene directly in incidents and has no military or police functions. TIPA is not affiliated with the United Nations and its mandate is renewed every few months by the parties that gave it its mandate by the independent agreement of 1997.

Sweden, which has taken part in TIPH since 1997 and has 12 members out of the 71 mission members, decided to continue its participation for at least six more months. The participation involves covering all costs of Swedish members of the mission such as salaries, allowances, insurance, personal equipment and travel costs.

“TIPH plays an important role under conditions that are often difficult. Our participation is a concrete contribution in the attempt to reduce tensions between the parties and to act for a peaceful solution to the conflict” says Minister for International Development Cooperation Carin Jämtin.

David Stavrou