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March 29, 2002
Who murdered the international peacekeepers?





26 March 2002 (3:11PM CT) -- Various news organisations reporting on the killing of one Turkish and one Swiss member of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) have included the Israeli claim that it was Palestinian gunmen who opened fire on the TIPH vehicle.

A TIPH spokesperson, reached by telephone in Hebron by the The Electronic Intifada today categorically stated that TIPH had "No information on the shooting."

At 19.38 GMT the Haaretz website while carrying the claim of the Israeli army that the gunmen were Palestinian reported that: "Two members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) observers force were killed Tuesday, after the vehicle in which they were traveling came under fire from an unknown source. Israeli troops searched the area but were unable to locate the gunmen."

The website report also added that "IDF sources saying that no Israeli troops were stationed in the area." The obvious question then is: if no Israeli troops were in the area, and the source of the fire is unknown and undetected, how could the Israeli army know that Palestinians were the culprits?

Some news agencies are less than careful about identifying the Israeli claims as claims. NPR reported in its 3PM ET news bulletin that: "Israeli military officials say two Norwegian observers from an international force in Hebron were shot and killed today. The observers were killed when Palestinians opened fire on their car in the West Bank. They were driving on a bypass road used mostly by Jewish settlers when their car came under fire north of Hebron, and they are the first members of the observer force to be killed in the West Bank."

The TIPH was introduced into Hebron in 1994 after Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler in the city, massacred 29 Palestinians during Ramadan prayers. Tensions between the TIPH and the settlers have often been high. In 1998, TIPH members reported that Israeli settlers were increasingly hostile towards them, and settlers shouted "Nazis, go to Auschwitz" at them. Settler leader Noam Arnon called the TIPH an "anti-Semitic organization." (Yediot Aharonot, September 7, 1998). More recently, on March 12th, Israeli incitement against the TIPH has been noted, with an article in the Jerusalem Post in which a senior IDF commander in Hebron is quoted saying: "We [the IDF] have intelligence information that they [TIPH] are giving information to the terrorist groups."

Palestinians have criticized the TIPH for being toothless to stop attacks on them by Israeli settlers, but have not been hostile towards it as have Israeli settlers and military personnel in the Hebron area. It also seems unlikely that a TIPH car -- which carry clear markings -- would be targeted by Palestinian gunmen attempting to attack settlers, which some reports have suggested may have be the case.

Responsible news organizations should report Israeli claims as just that -- and wait until the facts are known before reaching conclusions.

The Electronic Intifada condemns the targeting of all international personnel working in the region, and calls on both sides to take care to ensure the safety of foreign visitors.

Prepared by Nigel Parry and Ali Abunimah

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