By Sohaila Barghash
Last month, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu announced his government’s intolerance to international organizations that he referred to as “bias”, following this accusation the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was cancelled and the mission forced to leave on the 31st of January.
The mission was established amid a massacre of Palestinians in 1994, during which, 29 Palestinian worshippers were gunned down by an American-born Israeli settler as they prayed in a mosque, and since then, the TIPH continued to safeguard residents against abuses by settlers in the city.
Palestinian officials have warned against the withdrawal of international monitors, which will further endanger the lives of Palestinians and the city will have no observers to bear witness of Israeli abuses.
Aref Jaber, a Palestinian resident in the city expressed his fears saying: “The settlers’ attacks will increase… TIPH’s presence was particularly helpful to schoolchildren, because they patrolled the city in the morning and the afternoon when they go to and return from school.”
The United Nations also expressed its disapproval of Israel’s decision.
On Sunday, Palestinians from the Youth Against Settlements Organization began accompanying children to schools, dressed in vests with the word “observer” written on them in three languages; Arabic, English and Hebrew.
Issa Amro, a member of the activist organization said: “Today we started a local campaign to document violations that children going to school are subject to in this area where there are always settlers and the occupation army”.
He added: “We will not replace the international observers, but we try as much as we can to make sure that the children go to school.”
Small clashes broke out between Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian residents escorting children.
The International observers carried out daily patrols as they also documented rights abuses that they witnessed first hand, however, they were not allowed to intervene.
The mission used to report its findings to its member countries; Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Norway, and Switzerland, as well as to the Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
The city is home to 200,000 Palestinians and regardless of their illegal presence, about a 1,000 Israeli settlers live in the city and are guarded heavily by the Israeli military.
Israeli settlement is illegal under International Law and continues to abuse the rights of Palestinians acting as an obstacle to peace.