Showdown in Hebron: Netanyahu steps in to protect illegal settlers facing military eviction orders

Israel/Palestine
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 A Palestinian boy and an armed Jewish settler last Thursday outside the guarded building that settlers occupied in the divided West Bank city of Hebron. Photo: Abed Hashlamoun / EPA.

A closed military zone has been put in place around a three story building in Hebron taken over and illegally occupied by 100 settlers in an overnight raid last Thursday. Initially the military ordered them to evacuate by 3 pm today, but Netanyahu stepped in and requested a delay. The situation is now on hold. The settlers are still occupying the property, only now they are being protected by the very same military who previously ordered them to evacuate.

BBC

Ehud Barak had ordered the settlers out of the house in the West Bank city on Tuesday because they had not received the military’s approval to purchase it.

The settlers say they bought the house from its Palestinian owners legally.

But local Palestinian police disputed the validity of the deal, saying the building had more than 50 owners, only one of whom sold his share.

On Monday, the Israeli military told the settlers they had until 15:00 (12:00 GMT) on Tuesday to leave the house or prove it was theirs, after which the authorities would “act to restore the building to its previous state”.

“After examining all the evidence that was handed over and after considering all the circumstances of the incident, it was decided to return to the situation which existed before,” the military order said.

The settlers did not obtain military approval to buy the house and their takeover constituted a provocation, it added.

But overnight, Mr Netanyahu “asked the defence minister to allow the settlers in the building to have time to make their legal case”, officials in the prime minister’s office said.

Thus far the paperwork has not been verified, the settlers have ignored the deadline to evacuate and the Israeli government has remained silent and has not moved to evict them.

From the AP:

Dozens of Jewish settlers on Tuesday ignored a deadline to evacuate an illegally occupied West Bank house, as the government remained silent on whether they would be allowed to stay.

The passing of the deadline and lack of action from authorities compounded doubts about the willingness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to take on settlers who have tried to cement the Jewish presence on lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. Both Netanyahu, who has sided with the settlers in the already volatile city of Hebron, and the defense minister, who wants them to leave, were silent.

“Settlers say they bought the house from a Palestinian property owner, but the military said it had not yet ascertained whether the purchase was legitimate. That process could take days or weeks, military spokesman Maj. Guy Inbar said. The mayor of Hebron, Khaled Osaily, told Army Radio that the purchase documents were fraudulent, and that the seller was not acting on behalf of the building’s owner.”

LATimes (my bold)

As of Tuesday evening, the settlers remained inside the property and the military had not moved to evict them.

“This is a very delicate zone and their staying can harm the stability of the area or might bring Palestinians into the streets,” said Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the military’s civil administration. “That’s what we are trying to avoid.”

He said the military has not determined whether the settlers’ purchase contract is legal, but even if it is, he said they did not receive military authorization needed for West Bank transactions of this type.

“It is a fact that they are staying there illegally,” he said.

If settlers are permitted to stay, it would mark the first new foothold by Jewish settlers in Hebron in years.

…….

The Palestinian family that previously owned the property said some relatives had sold their interest to a Palestinian security official. It is being investigated whether that man, who is reportedly under arrest by the Palestinian Authority, subsequently sold the property to representatives of the settlers.

Hebron’s Palestinian mayor accused the settlers of forging the documents.

This eviction is getting lots of coverage today albeit there are wide discrepancies regarding the number of settlers, as reports roll in the numbers appear to grow.  There is an understanding the eviction order could touch off a show down between the Israeli military and a militant, fanatical settler community. Thus far the ‘showdown’ is taking place between Israeli politicians, between Barak and Netanyahu….supposedly.

The Israeli military has no qualms about violently evicting Palestinian activists . Juxtaposition noted.
 

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