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UN chief urges protection as Israel suspends observer force

JERUSALEM (AP) — The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hopes an agreement can be reached to protect Palestinians in the West Bank after Israel said it would suspend the mandate of an international observation mission.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement Saturday that Guterres was "grateful" to the five countries that contributed to conflict prevention and the protection of Palestinians under the Temporary International Presence in Hebron for the past 22 years.

On Friday, the TIPH countries — Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Italy and Turkey — condemned in a joint statement the Israeli government's unilateral decision not to extend the observer force's mission in the flashpoint city.

Hundreds of hard-line Jewish settlers guarded by thousands of soldiers live in the heart of Hebron, which has a population of over 200,000 Palestinians.

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