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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
International observers for Mid-East?
Palestinians sling stones at Israeli tank
Observers would monitor the crumbling ceasefire
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

The foreign ministers of the major Western industrialised nations and Russia have said they support the deployment of outside observers to help end Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The statement from the G8 countries - which include the United States - brings back into the agenda a proposal that Palestinians have been trying to get off the ground for months.

Palestinians have been calling on the United Nations Security Council to send a 2,000-strong force of UN military peacekeepers to protect Palestinian civilians.

1994 killing in Hebron of 29 Palestinians
Observers have been deployed in Hebron since a 1994 killing of 29 Palestinians
Israel has consistently opposed the deployment of such a force, viewing it as outside interference and arguing that it would complicate matters.

Both the UN and Washington have previously indicated that a peacekeeping force would not be formed without Israeli backing.

Israeli objections

Israel is traditionally very suspicious of the UN. In Israeli eyes, it is tainted by the 1975 General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. That resolution was revoked in 1991.

From an Israeli perspective, this is reason enough to reject proposals for a UN peacekeeping force.

The proposal for an unarmed military observer force, rather than a UN peacekeeping force, has been raised separately by Russia, France and the United Kingdom since the start of the current violence.

Any observer force would be expected to monitor violence, the observance of the ceasefire and liase between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian police.

Precedent

But the presence of international observers would not necessarily bring an end to the violence.

For six years 150 unarmed European observers have been deployed in Hebron in the West Bank, where a small enclave is still occupied by Israel.

The observers were put in place after radical Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein stormed a mosque and killed 29 praying Palestinians in 1994.

They have done little to prevent recent regular clashes between Palestinians and settlers.


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