Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to delay the Machpleah house eviction, the Defense Ministry stressed Tuesday that the order is still in effect.
"The prime minister's request was misinterpreted. The order was not withdrawn," a Defense Ministry statement said. "The settlers were given until 3 pm to prove what they need to prove. If they fail, the law will be enforced."
Sources close Barak said that 3 pm deadline should not be regarded as the time when security forces implement the eviction order. "The law will be enforced according to operational considerations," they said. Sources at the prime minister's bureau estimated that the settlers will be given the time they need but stated that should they fail to prove ownership, the law will be upheld.
Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz visited the Machpelah house in Hebron on Tuesday and expressed his support of its inhabitants. "I am convinced that Jews will continue to inhabit this house. There is no special security situation here. This is not a legal issue," he said.
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He added, "A decision on such a step (eviction) should be made by the government, not by one ministry." On Monday, Katz asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order Defense Minister Ehud Barak not to go ahead with the Civil Administration's decision to evict the settlers.
Minister Katz in Hebron (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Netanyahu complied and asked Barak to delay the eviction and allow the settlers to prove in court that the house was lawfully purchased.
On Monday, the Civil Administration ordered the settlers who moved into the Machpelah house to leave the premises by 3 pm on Tuesday, but Netanyahu asked that they be given more time.
Inside the Machpelah house
Ynet has learned that the settlers are preparing for a lengthy stay in the house. Baby cribs and mattresses have been placed in the house, indicating that the settlers are expecting to remain in the house for a while. Torah books and children's toys have also been brought to the house.
Who is behind it?
"The house owner sold the structure to the Palestinians," said Abu al-Halaweh, a member of the committee to restore the old city in Hebron. "We're trying to find out who was behind it."
Meanwhile, the settlers staying in the house are awaiting the decision of Israeli authorities as the eviction notice is expected to come into effect.
Palestinian attorneys are also expecting to receive official documents from Israel which might shed a light as to whether the Palestinian buyer did, in fact, sell the house to the settlers. According to Palestinian hearsay, the man in question is a former PA security officer who lives in the Gaza Strip.
Under the Palestinian law, selling real-estate or land to a Jew is illegal. Al-Halaweh noted that the Palestinian seller has been detained by the PA for months now, while the affair is being sorted out. He is expected to serve a prolonged prison sentence.
According to al-Halaweh, the story broke out after the seller and the family that bought the house quarreled.
In recent years, the settles in Hebron have been hard at work, buying property in the city, and have been the subject of many court debates. However, Palestinians claimed the issue has been on the back burner lately as both sides have been exhibiting relative calmness. For that reason the Machpleah house affair has become the topic of the day amongst Palestinians and is considered to be a serious issue by the PA.
Elior Levy contributed to this report
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