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Israel delays evacuation of settlers from Palestinian-owned home in Hebron

Sept. 4, 2017 6:08 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2017 2:02 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After the state of Israel ordered a group of Israeli settlers to evacuate a Palestinian-owned building in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered to delay the evacuation based on an appeal submitted by the settlers.

According to Israeli media reports, the settlers’ appeal is based on the same erroneous ownership claims to the property -- owned by the Abu Rajab family and referred to as Beit HaMachpela by the settlers -- that have already been debunked in previous legal proceedings.

The 15 settler families forcibly took over parts of the three-story Abu Rajab house in July. Last Sunday on Aug. 27, the Israeli state prosecutor gave them a week to leave peacefully in response to the petitions submitted by the Palestinian owners to the Israeli Supreme Court.

A week later on Sep. 3, the settlers submitted their own petition to the court, which then issued a temporary injunction to prevent the evacuation until the deadline for the state’s response to that appeal, due on Sep. 10, according to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.

According to Israeli news daily Haaretz, the settlers asserted that they purchased the building from a member of the Abu Rajab family who was later arrested by the Palestinian Authority. The family denied that this man had the right to sell the house. The Israeli Civil Administration also determined in the past that the sale was invalid, but an appeals committee criticized that decision and said the purchase must be reexamined.

Peace Now noted that the Israeli state has strongly rejected the settlers’ arguments that the appeals committee's decisions and the transaction permit gave them the right to reside in the property.

"The settlers' petition is absolutely outrageous and its baseless arguments have been rejected again and again in previous legal proceedings. After having been granted an independent administration a few days ago, it is no wonder the Hebron settlers feel empowered to do as they wish, while ignoring the law and on the expense of Palestinians," Peace Now said.

The NGO’s statement referred to a recent decision by the Israeli army to expand powers for Hebron's notoriously aggressive Israeli settlers by establishing a municipal services administration there.

The order broke with the Hebron Protocol, a 1997 treaty that split up Hebron city into H1 and H2, with H1 to be under full Palestinian control, while security in H2 was put under Israeli military control. However civil issues such as infrastructure, construction, and traffic arrangements in the settler’s section of H2 was to remain controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Peace Now said that the military order “formalizes the system of apartheid in the city and could potentially lead to new projects and budget transfers to the Hebron settlers.”

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, 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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