Some 120 settlers invade Machpelah House in Hebron
After the Civil Administration determined they had the necessary permits to populate the house, settlers invade the house and barricade themselves inside; 'At this time when Jewish blood is being spilled, we call on the government to proudly raise the flag of settlement in the Land of Israel,' they say.
Some 20 families, making up about 120 settlers, invaded the Machpelah House in Hebron on Tuesday evening and are barricading themselves inside.
Hundreds of yeshiva students from across the country arrived in Hebron to support the settlers. They intend to spend the night near the Machpelah House, but won't be able to enter the building as it has been isolated by security forces.
The atmosphere inside the building is tense but encouraged, as settlers are hoping they would be allowed to stay. Security officials estimated the settlers won't be evacuated on Tuesday night, only on Wednesday in the light of day. Evacuation in the dark would make it harder on security forces and endanger the evacuees, particularly the women and children among them.
The Machpelah House was the site of a 2012 evacuation of settlers which had taken up residence in the three-story structure adjacent to the Cave of the Patriarchs. Settlers had originally claimed the property was legally sold to them by the Palestinian owners, a claim the latter vehemently denied.
The 14 settler families living in the structure were ultimately evacuated by police and the IDF on the orders of then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and then-Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.
A year later, following a shooting attack, Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to resettle the disputed property, but ran into problems with the High Court, which ruled that no permits had been arranged.
In December 2015, the Land Registration Committee (LRC) determined that settlers had not produced all the necessary documents and that some of them were unreliable. The LRC deals with the registration of real estate, which to this day constitutes the legal basis for registration of land that has not yet been registered in the West Bank.
About a month after the committee's decision, settlers filed an appeal with the Civil Administration, which addressed the issue of the so-called "missing documents" and noted the documents in question were not missing, but were merely copies, as opposed to the originals. As such, the Civil Administration noted, "according to the Notaries Law, these copies are the same as the originals."
As a result, the Civil Administration recommended that the original LRC decision be overruled.
Two weeks have passed since, and the settlers moved into the property to protest the fact they have not yet been allowed to populate the building.
"The Machpelah House was purchased several years ago, but the Israeli government is shamefully preventing the families from taking up residence in the property they purchased without any moral or legal justification," representatives of the 15 settlers claimed.
"At this time when Jewish blood is being spilled, we call on the government to proudly raise the flag of settlement in the Land of Israel. In the face of the murder of Jews and national stammering, we demand that the government of Israel allow the families to take up residence at the Machpelah House immediately."
Shlomo Levinger, who serves as a spokesperson for the families, said the settlers had time to bring in "all of the necessary equipment for the families, including blankets, beddings, sheets, clothes and even food. We intend to stay here and not leave. This is the time to make brave decisions, particularly as this is a building paid for in full."
The Kiryat Arba Council leader Malachi Levinger said, "This time it's serious, we're going all the way. We want to fulfill the prime minister's promise that every Jew has a right to buy a home in Israel and settle there. I hope the defense minister and prime minister will make the reasonable and logical decision in this case and allow us to remain in the homes."
Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin praised the move at a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction, and called on the prime minister and the defense minister to allow the families to remain in the building as an "appropriate nationalist response."
TPS contributed to this report.