After Palestinians Petition, Israel Says It Will Remove Settlers From Hebron House

The settlers broke into the Machpelah House last month amid an ownership dispute

Israeli border police officers in front of a building in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Around a hundred settlers remain inside the disputed residential building in Hebron.
Israeli border police officers in front of a building in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Around a hundred settlers remain inside the disputed residential building in Hebron. Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

The State Attorney's Office demanded the evacuation of settlers within a week from an occupied Hebron building if negotiations do not lead to a compromise.

The State Attorney's Office was responding to a petition by the Palestinian Abu Rajab family of Hebron requesting the evacuation of a building called the Machpelah House, which was broken into and occupied by settlers last month. In the legal battle over the building, settlers claim they purchased the Machpelah House from the Palestinian owners, while the Abu Rajab family insists the seller was not authorized to do so.

A Civil Administration committee charged with registration of the property determined in the past that Beit Hamechpela had not been legally purchased and belonged to Palestinian residents. However, an appeals committee criticized this decision and decided to re-examine the issue. This process is still underway, but settlers have taken over the building in the meantime. Negotiations between the parties will continue for another week before the planned evacuation. 

A Jewish settler youth looks out from a window covered with an Israeli flag hanging on a disputed building where about a hundred hard-line Jewish settlers have hunkered down, in the West Bank city of Hebron on July 26, 2017.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

The state’s response to the Abu Rajab family's petition, filed by state prosecutors, says that “consultations were held among relevant state authorities” after said filed petition asked for the evacuation. The settlers are currently living in the building, moving in and out freely although it was declared a closed military area the day after settlers broke in."

“At the end of discussions, the Attorney General determined that the group of Israelis who entered the building in July must evacuate it, in light of an earlier commitment by the state and in response to the current petition to remove these invaders,” the response reads.

The state's earlier commitment said that “there is no intention of approving the population of this building before the completion of the initial registration.” The moving in of settlers is therefore a violation of the state’s commitment to the court.

The state’s response also says that “the AG has decided that the Israeli company (a non-profit organization) claiming rights to part of this building could ask for temporary assistance from the committee, such as the right to occupy part of the building.”

The state emphasizes that negotiations have not led to an agreement with the settlers who invaded the Machpelah House until this point. “Thus, our position is that the building must be evacuated. The defense establishment says that it needs another week to complete its talks with representatives of the people occupying the building.

The AG has thus approved a delay of one week in an attempt to peacefully evacuate the building. If no agreement is reached by then security forces will make preparations to carry out the evacuation.”