IDF preparing to evacuate protesting settlers from West Bank market
Military peparing for standoff next week, advised activists they will have to pay for their own forcible evacuation.
The Israel Defense Forces is preparing to evacuate next week settlers who have broken into the wholesale market in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The IDF recently sent a letter to the settlers' attorney, Haim Cohen, saying it would charge settlers the cost of evacuating them if they did not leave of their own accord.
The letter, sent by the legal advisor of the Judea and Samaria Division, said that the settlers' window of opportunity to leave freely has closed, and that the IDF will forcibly evacuate them at a time it deems appropriate.
The army said in the letter to Cohen that it would use "reasonable force" during the evacuation, and raised the possibility of placing the entire cost of the exercise on the shoulders of Cohen's clients, the settlers.
A military source said that the evacuation of the market is likely to take place next week. The settlers of Hebron have already set up headquarters from which to resist the military's attempts to remove them from the city.
Palestinian shops in the wholesale market have been closed since 1994. Israel ordered their closure after Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Settlers broke into the market in 2001 after infant Shalhevet Pas was murdered by a Palestinian, at which point evacuation orders were issued.
The settlers left of their own volition approximately 18 months ago under an agreement with the Judea and Samaria Division commander Yair Golan, who promised they would be allowed to return shortly afterwards as legal tennants.
However, once the agreement became public, the attorney general ordered it annulled saying it was made against government orders, and Golan was reprimanded.
Earlier this year, the families returned and broke into the market again, claiming their return constitutes the righting of a historical injustice, as the market was built on a plot owned by Jews in the 19th century.
The land was under Jordanian control until the 1948 War of Independence, after which it was transferred to the Hebron municipality under whose auspices the market was constructed.
A representative responded to the IDF's announcement that the settlers will have to fund their own evacuation, saying the army was acting with great audacity.
"The IDF should be ashamed of itself for annulling the agreement on the market and not send threats that are meant to deny the residents their right to legitimate protest."
The National Religious Party also condemned the intended evacuation, saying in a statement, "We stand by the side of the residents of Hebron for their just struggle."