Less than five hours after the Civil Administration ordered settlers who moved into the Machpelah house in Hebron to leave the premises by 3 pm on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday evening to delay the planned eviction in order to give the settlers ample time to explore all legal avenues and prove they had purchased the house legally.
The eviction order drew harsh criticism from rightist Knesset members, who called to overturn the "outrageous" eviction order.
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Security officials said the settlers have until 3 pm Tuesday to prove they had purchased the house legally. "If they don't," one official said, "it does not mean security forces will immediately raid the house, but the direction is clear."
The affair began last week after dozens of settlers moved into the house adjacent to the tomb of the Patriarchs which they claim to have purchased. The house has been declared a closed military zone.
'Give settlers more time.' Machpelah house (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The eviction order stated that "in Hebron a fragile status quo is maintained between the Israeli and Palestinian population. Upholding this status quo prevents confrontations that may lead to loss of life."
Earlier Monday, the residents of the Machpelah House presented the Civil Administration with the deed of the house, which has to be approved by Defense Minister Barak.
Security officials told Ynet the eviction order was issued due to security concerns, claiming the settlers' presence in the house poses a threat to stability in the area. The sources said that even if the house had been purchased legally, the contract still requires the authorization of the defense minister.
Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein (Likud) called on the defense minister to cancel the eviction order.
Visiting the house on Saturday night, he insisted that the purchase of the building was legal. "Issuing an order under the pretense of procedure is unacceptable. The order must be voided immediately and we must wait for the government's decision on the matter," he said.
Other rightist MKs also called on the prime minister to cancel the eviction order. The lawmakers claim that the fact that public order violations are the only reason the administration found in order to evict the settlers from the building proves that the purchase is legitimate.
Itamar Fleishman contributed to the report
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