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Temporary International Presence in Hebron: History

On February 25, 1994, an Israeli citizen and resident of the Kiryat Arba Settlement opened fire at the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpela during Friday dawn prayers, killing 29 Palestinian worshippers. The UN Security Council’s Resolution No. 904 condemned the massacre and called for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinians throughout the occupied territory. This resolution called for a temporary international presence, which was provided for in the Declaration of Principles of September 13, 1993.

Following the massacre in Hebron, Yasser Arafat announced a PLO’s withdrawal from any further peace negotiation with Israel unless Israel agreed to a presence of international observers in the city of Hebron. On March 31, 1994, representatives from the PLO and Israel signed an agreement asking Italy, Denmark and Norway to provide support staff and observers for a Temporary International Presence in the City of Hebron (TIPH). Its main mandate would be to assist in promoting stability and restoring normal life in the city of Hebron.

The three countries responded positively to the request and a team representing all three nations arrived in the West Bank in early April the same year in order to make a logistical assessment. The TIPH mission was subsequently set up on May 8, 1994. Moreover, the PLO and the Israeli government, could not reach an agreement on an extension of the mandate, and TIPH withdrew from Hebron on August 8, 1994.

The peace negotiations between the PLO and the Israeli government continued. The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (also known as “Taba,” or “Oslo II Agreement”), dated September 28, 1995, called for partial redeployment of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from Hebron. An article in the same agreement called for another temporary international presence to be established, this time during the redeployment of the IDF from the city. Subsequently, negotiations were initiated between the two parties and Norway on the establishment of a TIPH in accordance with the Interim Agreement.

Norway had already committed itself to participation in a TIPH mission through its involvement in, and support of, the Interim Agreement. The agreement now being drafted by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government, called for Norway to establish a TIPH mission with Norwegian members only. The TIPH mission established under this agreement would then be replaced by a new TIPH mission under a new agreement, upon the IDF’s redeployment in Hebron. The second TIPH mission was set up on May 12, 1996. It had its mandate renewed on a monthly basis awaiting the partial Israeli redeployment from Hebron, which finally took place on January17, 1997.

The two parties signed a new agreement on January 21, 1997. It called for Norway, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey to provide personnel for TIPH, with Norway in the role as coordinator. The agreement also delineated the tasks of TIPH and set the mandate period to three months, renewable for an additional period of three months, unless otherwise agreed between the two sides. Furthermore, with the consent of the two sides, the TIPH could extend the period or change its scope of operation, as agreed.

The six participating countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding pursuant to the Agreement on TIPH in Oslo on January 30, 1997. On February 1, 1997, the multinational TIPH mission entered into force.

At the beginning of 2019, the TIPH had 64 international civilian observers from Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. In January 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the mandate for the group would not be renewed. Netanyahu’s action was backed by the United States, which blocked a proposed UN Security Council statement criticizing his decision. A spokesman for the State Department noted: “The 1997 agreement on the temporary international presence in the city of Hebron clearly states that the consent of both the Israelis and the Palestinians is required in order to extend the mandate and presence of the TIPH. Furthermore, Oslo II and Hebron Protocol of 1997 also stated that the agreement from both sides was necessary for that to continue.”

Sources: Temporary International Presence in Hebron;
Tovah Lazaroff, “Netanyahu tosses observer force out of Hebron after 22 years,” Jerusalem Post, (January 28, 2019);
State Department, February 7, 2019;
“U.S. Blocks UN Resolution Denouncing Israeli Expulsion of Hebron Monitoring Group,” Reuters, February 7, 2019).