Netanyahu Calls on IDF to Let Settlers Back Into Contested Hebron House

In wake of shooting that killed Israeli soldier near Hebron, prime minister pledges to 'strengthen settlement' in West Bank; IDF troops continue search for sniper.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the Civil Administration on Sunday night to take the necessary action to allow Jewish settlers back into a contested house in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In April 2012, a group of settlers moved into the house. They said they had purchased the property, which is near the Tomb of the Patriarchs and is known as Beit Hamachpela, after the Hebrew name of that site. After reviewing the deed, the Civil Administration invalidated the purchase, citing faults in the transaction. Under the martial law in the territories, any real estate deal must first be approved by an Israeli army commander.

Consequently, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered that the house be evacuated.

Since then, settlers in Hebron have been waging a legal battle to gain recognition for the transaction. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has pledged in the past that if the deal is deemed legal, the settlers would receive authorization to move in from the military as well.

On Sunday night, Netanyahu ordered that the house be inhabited without delay.

"Anyone who tries to uproot us from the city of our patriarchs will achieve the opposite," he said. "We will continue to fight terrorism … with one hand, while strengthening the settlement with the other."

Netanyahu's announcement came after an Israel Defense Forces soldier was shot dead on Sunday in Hebron. He was the second Israeli soldier killed since Friday by suspected Palestinian gunmen as tensions rise in the West Bank despite a resumption of stalled U.S.-brokered peace talks in July.

Nevertheless, the purchase must still go through the appropriate bureaucratic channels. In June, an appeals committee ordered that the settlers' request to register the purchase be reviewed. Contrary to reports, it did not recognize the legality of the transaction, but leveled criticism at the manner in which the deal was denied.

Once this process is completed, the prime minister and defense minister can sign off on the deal and allow the settlers back into the property.

Netanyahu's statement did not mention a timeline for this process.

The settlers said on Sunday that they will only return to the home once they receive an official authorization.

On Monday morning, patrols continued in Hebron for the sniper who shot and killed Staff Sgt. Gal (Gabriel) Kobi, a combat soldier of the Givati Brigade, near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

IDF troops found and confiscated two hunting rifles during searches on Sunday night. The two Palestinians who were in possession of the rifles were arrested. IDF troops also arrested 10 Palestinians who were wanted for questioning by the Shin Bet.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday said he will hold an emergency situation assessment later in the day.

Ya’alon said that he shared the grief of Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi’s family, who live in Tirat Hacarmel, and added, “The IDF and the security forces will find the terrorist and his handlers and bring them to justice. The State of Israel will not tolerate any attempt by terrorist groups or lone terrorists to harm its citizens and soldiers and disrupt normal life, and it will act firmly and severely against any such attempt.”

In response to the murders, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett demanded that the cabinet reconsider its commitment to release dozens of convicted terrorists over the course of the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

"The negotiations have turned Sukkot into a bloody holiday," Bennett said. "There is no doubt that the developments that have occurred since the talks resumed require the government to recalculate its path. The response to terrorism must be a war on killers, not a dialogue with those who encourage killers."

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon demanded the government to freeze the talks until Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemns the murders.

"Abbas' silence constitutes tailwind to acts of terror," he said.

The contested Hebron house, April 2012.Credit: Emil Salman

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