European Observer Removed after Slapping Hebron Child

10-year-old boy attacked during Breaking the Silence Tour in Hebron.

15.7.18, 10:48
A ten-year-old Jewish Israeli boy was slapped across the face sending his kippah flying to the ground last week in Hebron. The attacker was the legal adviser for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, a group of mostly European observers who have been stationed in the city since the 1990s. 

The attacker has since been reprimanded and has returned to his home country of Switzerland with the Swiss ambassador sending an apology letter to the Jewish community of Hebron. The incident, which was caught on video, took place across from the Admot Yishai neighborhood of Hebron, a Jewish  community located next to the Tel Hebron / Tel Rumeida archaeological park. The boy was identified in one news outlet as the cousin of Shalhevet Pass, the infant girl who was murdered by an Arab terrorist sniper in 2001. 
The Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika) organization which often leads tours in the city, came to the neighborhood and allegedly began provoking local Jewish residents. News reports have stated that TIPH observers are not supposed to walk through Jewish neighborhoods, however the TIPH legal adviser joined the Breaking the Silence tour in plain clothes, as opposed to his regular uniform. Dean Issacharoff, spokesman for Breaking the Silence lead the tour. The group later released a statement saying: "Breaking the Silence condemns any violence against children, even when Naftali Bennett calls for shooting eight-year-old children."

Uri Karzen, director of the Jewish community of Hebron called for the removal of both TIPH and Breaking the Silence from the city.
The TIPH legal adviser was a native of Switzerland and the Swiss Ambassador to Israel sent a letter to the Jewish Community of Hebron which reads as follows:

You are certainly aware of the incident that took place in Hebron two days ago, whereby a Swiss member of the TIPH slapped a young boy. Though this was no doubt preceded by some provocation on the side of the settlers -- the action of this TIPH member is totally unacceptable. It is expected from our TIPH members that they keep their nerves in any circumstance.

I wish to express my apologies for this gesture. I also wish to let you know that the concerned individual is leaving the country today.

I count on you to help avoid the situation from deteriorating. It is impressive that interactions between TIPH personnel and the settlers be respectful and that the provocations stop.

It is a privilege to be able to communicate with you in this effective manner. I hope we can continue to work together towards a future of peace for everyone.

I take this occasion to wish you a peaceful and serene Shabbat.


Jean-Daniel Ruch

The Jewish community of Hebron welcomed Ruch’s apology while calling for "a neutral and less hostile stance toward the Jewish community in Hebron."  In a press release, the community added that TIPH "receives a mandate for its activities from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and is supposed to supervise the 'fulfillment of the Hebron Accords.' In practice, the organization repeatedly issues false, biased, and hostile reports, which are viewed from time to time with the aid of provocations and even acts of terrorism.

Despite this, the observers of the organization enjoy diplomatic status... the grave incident reveals the depth of cooperation between Breaking the Silence and hostile international observers. Behind the innocent disguise was hatred, hypocrisy, and violence. Our children and our soldiers deserve protection from such hostile elements.
We demand the suspension of the observers activities and the cessation of the provocative tours of Breaking the Silence in the Jewish community of Hebron."

TIPH is comprised of citizens from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. It was conceived in 1994 and deployed in 1997 in accordance with the Hebron Accords which divided the city. According to their official website, their tasks are: to promote by its presence a feeling of security to the Palestinians of Hebron; to help promote stability and an appropriate environment conducive to the enhancement of the well-being of the Palestinians of Hebron and their economic development; to observe the enhancement of peace and prosperity among Palestinians; to assist in the promotion and execution of projects initiated by the donor countries; to encourage economic development and growth in Hebron; to provide reports ; and to coordinate its activities with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

On March 26, 2002 two TIPH observers, Catherine Berruex of Switzerland and Turgut Cengiz Toytunç of Turkey were killed in an ambush shooting by a Palestinian Arab gunman near Halhul, a city adjacent to Hebron. Three members of TIPH were riding westward on the Trans-Judea highway when they came under fire from short range, although their car was clear marked with the letters TIPH.

Huseyin Ozaslan, also from Turkey, who was injured in the attack, related that he clearly saw the attacker, who was wearing the uniform of the PA's security forces and was carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle. "We shouted that we are observers, members of TIPH," he said. "But he did not hear us and continued to shoot."

On February 8, 2006 following an attack on their headquarters by rioting Palestinian Authority residents, all TIPH observers were temporarily withdrawn from Hebron. TIPH members began to resume their duties in April 2006.

Breaking the Silence, according to their website is dedicated "to expose the public to the reality of everyday life in the occupied territories... Our work aims to bring an end to the occupation."

The organization is often criticized for largely relying on anonymous testimonies from former Israeli soldiers of alleged abuses by the IDF and for receiving funding from European countries and left-wing groups.
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