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Israeli state orders settlers to evacuate Palestinian family's home in Hebron

Aug. 28, 2017 1:07 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 29, 2017 1:39 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have ordered a group of Israelis to evacuate a building in Hebron's Old City in the southern occupied West Bank that belongs to the Abu Rajab family, after the settlers forcibly took over the home a month ago amid a years-long legal battle over the building. Meanwhile, a member of the Palestinian family reported continued physical attacks at the hands of the settlers.

The Israeli state prosecutor told the Israeli Supreme Court that the fifteen settler families have seven days to vacate a three-story building, Israel’s justice ministry announced on Sunday evening.

The state was responding to an appeal submitted to the court by the Abu Rajab family against the takeover of the house, over which settlers have erroneously attempted to claim ownership for years to establish the so-called Beit Hamachpela settlement.

The Israeli prosecutor said that once the families leave the building they can still ask the Israeli Civil Administration’s Registration Committee to temporarily give them rights to hold onto the property during the ongoing legal proceedings to transfer the title to their name. If that right was granted, then they could move back into the structure, the state said.

The registration committee denied the settlers’ request to establish the settlement in 2015 on the grounds that the settlers failed to prove their alleged purchase of the Palestinian house. The settlers appealed the decision and had been waiting to reappear before the committee when they decided to move into the house anyway.

Israeli authorities hope to convince the settlers -- who have been hosting provocative marches under the armed protection of Israeli soldiers amid a spike in settler attacks in the area -- to leave peacefully over the course of the week, before resorting to a forcible evacuation.

One of the owners of the building Hazin Abu Rajab al-Tamimi told Ma’an that the Israeli Supreme Court released a 35-page order on Thursday, but "the order was kept secret” until Sunday night.

He said the family’s lawyers were able to obtain a copy of the order, and expressed hopes that the settlers will be evacuated from the building “as soon as possible.”

The settlers had taken over the second and third floors of the building, in addition to conducting raids into the first floor, where the Palestinian family lives.

After the evacuation order was issued, Israeli settlers assaulted 55-year-old Umm Murad Abu Rajab causing her bruises, al-Tamimi said. "For three weeks, settlers have been trying to evacuate us from the building after they occupied the first floor, but we will never leave it."

When the settlers moved in last month, they reportedly claimed they had permission from the Israeli army to do so, and also received verbal support from a number of Israeli politicians including Knesset member David Bitan of the ruling Likud party.

Israeli settlers first stormed the home in 2012 after they claimed to have purchased the building from the Abu Rajab family. The Palestinians responded with submitting six complaints to Israeli courts and accused the settlers of forging the sale documents.

A ruling was later reached to evacuate the settlers from the premises due to lack of adequate proof of ownership.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to encourage the establishment of the settlement in 2013,.

After the settlers moved in last month, they settlers hung a banner across the building reminding Netanyahu of a statement, which he made after an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian in Hebron.

Since the settlers took over the building, its leadership reportedly accused the Israeli government of “stalling” on legal procedures, and called on Israeli leaders to “stop this injustice” and to move the ownership of the home to the settlers of Hebron, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli newspaper quoted a spokesperson for the Israeli settlers who denoucned the Israeli state’s argument as having “no basis in law.” According to the spokesperson, the law does not require registration before possession.

Israeli NGO Peace Now said back in 2015 that the settlers’ efforts to push out the Abu Rajab family represented “yet another example of the method settlers use in order take over Palestinian properties: first they create facts on the ground by taking over land or houses; then they claim to have bought them and open long and exhausting legal procedures; and finally they launch political campaigns to put pressure on the government to side with them.”

“While in many cases claims of purchase are proven as false, on other occasions the settlers’ illegitimate method succeeds and new settlements are established. In either case, settlers often manage to stay on site for many years,” the settlement watchdog warned.

Located in the center of Hebron -- one of the largest cities in the occupied West Bank -- the Old City was divided into Palestinian and Israeli-controlled areas, known as H1 and H2, following the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre. The Abu Rajab home is located near to this mosque.

Some 800 notoriously aggressive Israeli settlers now live under the protection of the Israeli military in the Old City, surrounded by more than 30,000 Palestinians.

Palestinian residents of the Old City face a large Israeli military presence on a daily basis, with at least 20 checkpoints set up at the entrances of many streets, as well as the entrance of the Ibrahimi Mosque itself.
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