Text size

Dozens of settlers moved into an unoccupied Palestinian building in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, saying it was legally purchased from its Palestinian owner for $700,000.

The building is located near the "worshiper's way," close to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the Israeli-controlled part of the city.

It is currently under construction, and has yet to be connected to water or electricity. The settlers say they will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars more in order to complete the construction.

Settlers brought a generator to the site in order to prepare for a long-term stay.

According to Hebron's Jewish committee, the settlers have documents proving ownership. "Everything is copied, taped, documented - the entire purchasing process," a committee member told Haaretz. "No one can contradict our ownership claims."

Noam Arnon, a spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, told Haaretz: "The purchasing process was complex and carried out through a Jordanian office. This is a house that has been under construction for several years. No one lives in it yet, so no one was evacuated from it."

A Palestinian claiming to the be the owner of the building, Mohammed Al-Baradei (Abu Samir), told Haaretz however that all of the ownership documents are in his possession. "I handed all of the documents over to police after making copies," he said. "Anyone who claims otherwise is a lier."

Al-Baradei says that some 100 settlers arrived at the site Monday evening.

Police and the Israel Defense Forces are investigating the matter.

The settlers intend to use the building as a memorial to the 12 IDF troops killed in the area during fighting with Islamic Jihad militants in November 2002. Dozens of settlers also intend to live there.

"The place could house many Jewish families in the future," said Arnon. "It is located on the main road between Kiryat Arba and Hebron, in an area that the IDF controls and secures on a permanent basis, in an area that was determined in agreements to be Jewish."

"Currently mostly young people are in the house, but in the future, after we renovate it, families will live there, like in other areas of Jewish settlement in Hebron," Arnon added. "This is not a provocation, this is a completely straightforward purchase."

"Jews lived in Hebron in the past, Jews live [in Hebron] today, and Jews will live [in Hebron] in the future as well - despite the left-wing and Arabs' attempts to drive us out," he said.

Approximately one year ago, settlers occupied a different house in Hebron's Beit Shapira neighborhood, also claiming they had bought it. Police and the IDF removed them from the house after doubts surfaced regarding the legality of their ownership claims.