Israel plans to expand the Jewish settlement in Hebron for the first time in over a decade, even if the extension would only be small, sources familiar with the plan say.
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The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories would only say that “authorities in the area are examining returning some of the land for civilian use,” referring to the Mitkanim outpost. “However, plans for civilian building have not yet been submitted or approved.”
Earlier this year the Defense Ministry issued a planning permit for several housing units for Jews in city’s H2 area, which is under full Israeli control. The units are to be built on land that belongs to the military’s Mitkanim outpost.
A special team has been planning the settlement’s expansion in recent months. The planning is at an early stage, so it has not gone through the bureaucratic pipeline ahead of construction.
Sources familiar with the plan said the land envisioned for the new housing only allowed for a handful of homes. Israeli sources say the land is private property that belonged to Jews before the establishment of the state in 1948. Settlers in Hebron agree.
The land has always been known to belong to the Jewish community,” said a spokesman for Hebron settlers, Noam Arnon. “If they live there again, I’m sure every justice-loving person will rejoice.”
Peace Now and other groups on the left disagree.“There is an attempt here to overturn a High Court decision that forbade building settlements on land seized for military use,” said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran.
“The settlement in Hebron is the most extreme and callous of all, and the Netanyahu government is trampling legal standards to build a settlement exactly where the occupation and separation are the most callous and severe,” she said.
Both security forces and settlers stressed that the settlement was planned for land that had belong historically to Jews, before military facilities were built there.
Settlers first tried in 1968 to renew Jewish settlement in Hebron following the Six-Day War, taking over the Park Hotel. After a political battle that lasted several weeks, the settlers were moved from the hotel to the adjacent military base. They later founded Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron.
Jews started living in Hebron itself in 1979 under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Hebron settlers say they have not built new homes in the city since the early 2000s, putting up a handful of units in the Tel Rumeida area. Several hundred settlers live in Hebron.