Israel says won't renew mandate of Hebron observer mission

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Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he will not renew the mandate of international observers in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, effectively closing the mission.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was established in the city following a massacre of Palestinians in 1994, but Netanyahu accused it of bias.

"We will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office on Twitter.

The premier did not specify why he had decided not to renew the mission's mandate, which had been renewed every six months since its creation.

The Norway-led team is comprised of 64 observers who are tasked with promoting a sense of security for Palestinians in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank.

Its mission was created after 29 Palestinian worshippers were killed by an American-born Israeli settler.

Observers carry out daily patrols and document rights abuses they witness, although they are not allowed to intervene.

The mission reports its findings to its member countries -- Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey -- as well as the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Israel has in recent years accused some observers of failing to act impartially.

Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews and has been a flashpoint in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

At least 600 Jewish settlers live under heavy military guard in the city, which is home to around 200,000 Palestinians.

Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land the Palestinians seen as part of their future state.