Norway: Hebron Observers Evacuated

Protest related to the caricatures of Mohammed flared again in the Middle East, with the Norwegian-led observer force in Hebron forced to evacuate after a violent demonstration. About 300 protestors stormed the TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) office in Hebron. TIPH chief Arnstein _verkil confirmed that the force, which is comprised of largely Scandinavian members and includes 21 Norwegians, had to evacuate. About 60 unarmed international observers reside at the center. Palestinian police fired in the air to try to disperse the crowd, which smashed the windows of two buildings in a complex used by the observers in the city of Hebron. “We are in a state of emergency. Please call back in the afternoon,” a TIPH representative who answered the Hebron office’s telephone told Reuters. The demonstrators, mostly youths, at first managed to disperse Palestinian police guarding the building. The protestors, chanting “Denmark out of Hebron” tried to set fire to one of the buildings. The 12 Danish TIPH members have been temporarily evacuated to Tel Aviv. Palestinian police and eventual reinforcements of Israeli soldiers managed to keep the youth at bay, though by then nearly all of the windows in the three-story building and three TIPH vehicles had been destroyed. “This alone was unique – I have never before experienced armed Palestinians and Israelis cooperating like this,” said Norwegian TIPH press officer Gunhild Luise Forselv. The TIPH, staffed by personnel from Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, was established following the killing of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron by a Jewish settler in 1994. Its mandate is to monitor and report “efforts to maintain normal life” in the city. The TIPH had suspended its regular patrols in the wake of the caricature turmoil, but resumed routines on Wednesday, believing the unrest to be on the wane.