Hebron UN team hit out at curfew

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The Independent Online
INTERNATIONAL observers in the West Bank town of Hebron have protested to the Israeli army after being confined to their headquarters and barred from moving on the streets, along with Hebron's 100,000 Arab residents.

The 116-strong force, known as TIPH (Temporary International Presence Hebron), was deployed in the town to monitor conflict between Palestinians, Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers, in the wake of the Hebron massacre in February, when a Jewish settler killed 29 Muslim worshippers.

Yesterday the TIPH was, in effect, placed under curfew, after the Israelis imposed a curfew on the town following renewed violence on Monday. The monitors have protested to the military authorities.

'Since 10.30am on 17 May the TIPH has not been able to perform its duty,' said Bjarno Sorenson, the spokesman for the monitors. The TIPH observers, from Italy, Denmark and Norway,do not hide their frustration. They fear that they are becoming a laughing-stock in the town.

'We are here as guests invited by the Palestinians and the Israelis. You don't treat guests like this. You don't invite them to a party and then tell them to sit on the balcony,' Mr Sorenson said.

Israeli military sources said that they hold overall responsibility for security in Hebron, and have the right to impose order. But the row over the TIPH curfew may have damaging implications, exacerbating tensions in the town. Settlers in Hebron walk through the streets bearing arms, under Israeli military protection. Palestinians are subject to curfews, and shop- keepers in the central market are barred from their shops, abutting Jewish settlements.

Scepticism surrounded the mission from the start. Arabs and Jews in Hebron poured scorn on the ability of observers to ease tensions. On Monday, when 19 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli soldiers and settlers' gunfire, the TIPH faced their most serious test. However the best they could do was to interview eyewitnesses later about what had happened. Palestinians appealed to the monitors to take firmer action, and condemned them for obeying the Israeli order to leave the area.

OSLO - The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, yesterday admitted he had called for a 'jihad' to free Jerusalem, but said he meant it as a peaceful crusade, Reuter reports. 'I'll continue my jihad for peace,' he said in Oslo. 'Jihad' means holy war or struggle. Mr Arafat said he had made the appeal in a religious speech in South Africa.