US blocks UN Security Council statement of regret after Israel decides to end Hebron observer force


(JTA) — The United States blocked a proposed United Nations Security Council statement that expressed “regret” after Israel decided not to extend the mandate of a civilian observer force in Hebron.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late last month that he had made the decision to discontinue the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH, which has operated for more than 20 years. The force’s mandate must be renewed every six months by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Its current renewal ended on Jan. 31.

“We will not allow the presence of an international force that operates against us,” Netanyahu said in announcing the decision.

On Wednesday, the Security Council discussed the decision to end the observer force in a closed-door session. The statement, which has to be approved by consensus, was written by Kuwait and Indonesia.

The statement offered the Security Council’s “regret” about Israel’s “unilateral decision” and calls for “calm and restraint” in Hebron, according to the French news agency AFP, which saw a copy of the statement. It also stated “the importance of the mandate of the TIPH and its efforts to foster calm in a highly sensitive area and fragile situation on the ground, which risks further deteriorating, as reflected in the escalating cycle of violence.”

The international force was established in 1997 as part of the Oslo Accords’ Hebron agreement, which put 80 percent of the city under the control of the Palestinian Authority and the other 20 percent under Israel’s control. The force consists of more than 60 civilian observers from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey.

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