PM Netanyahu and senior ministers announced that the Machpelah house in Hebron would be evacuated by April 26, but Defense Minister Barak decided not to wait: A special police patrol unit (Yasam) evacuated Jewish settlers from a house in Hebron they claimed to have purchased legally.
Officers raided the Machpelah house Wednesday afternoon and cleared the settlers from the premises within minutes. A few settlers who refused to evacuate the house voluntarily were forcibly removed by police officers.
About an hour after the evacuation, Jewish youths from Hebron arrived at the West Bank city's Abu Sneina neighborhood and confronted Arab residents. Border Guard officers were alerted to the scene to clear the youths from the area.
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Following the evacuation, Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement saying, "I will continue to work towards upholding the law and democracy while safeguarding the State's authority over its citizens."
Machpelah house (Photo: Lowshot.com)
The minister said authorities would continue to examine the settlers' claim that they had legally purchased the house from its Palestinian owners, but stressed that "we will not allow a situation whereby (illegal) actions are taken with the aim of creating facts on the ground."
The evacuation in Hebron was carried out after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein insisted that it does not require the government's approval. He told Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the evacuation must be carried out immediately to preserve the rule of law.
Scene of evacuation (Photo: Itamar Fleishman)
Earlier it was reported that following a late night meeting on Tuesday between Netanyahu and ministers Barak, Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon it was decided that the Jewish settlers would be evacuated from the house in Hebron by April 26 if it is proven they had moved into the house illegally.
Officer on Machpelah house roof (Photo: Reuters)
The decision was based on the opinion of senior judicial officials.
The affair began last week when dozens of settlers moved into the house, which is located near the Cave of the Patriarchs, claiming they had purchased it from its Palestinian owners.
Palestinians who claim to be the rightful owners of the house in Hebron told Ynet Tuesday that the house was never sold to anyone – Jewish or otherwise.
The house was declared a closed military zone, and the Civil Administration issued an eviction order for the settlers, which 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."
The settlers, for their part, denied the claim and said that the Civil Administration has not even examined the legality of the sale of the building.
Barak drew harsh criticism from Likud lawmakers, who claimed he was acting contrary to government policy. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Barak's mandate for dealing with the West Bank settlements should be revoked and given to ministerial staff. "He does not solve problems and does not sign zoning plans,” said the minister.
On Monday Netanyahu ask Barak to postpone the evacuation in order to give the settlers ample time to prove they had purchased the Machpelah house legally, but the defense minister's office said "the settlers were given enough time. If they are unable to (prove they bought the house legally), the law will be enforced."
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