Dozens of Settlers Move Into Two Hebron Homes Near Cave of Patriarchs

Jewish settlers claim to have purchased homes in Palestinian neighborhood, challenging borders of local settlement; defense minister expected to reject move due to lack of permits.

Settlers, soldiers and border police officers at one of the homes in Hebron on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
Haverim Leshah Tzarah

Settlers in Hebron moved into two empty houses on Thursday afternoon they claim to have purchased in the Old City near the Cave of the Patriarchs. 

The move came as a surprise to authorities who were not informed or coordinated with in advance.

A few dozen of the Hebron settlement's residents entered the homes between the Cave of the Patriarchs and the neighborhood of Avraham Avinu and announced that they had bought the buildings. They called the homes "Beit Rachel" and "Beit Leah," after the biblical wives of Jacob.

Police were quick to arrive on the scene, but too late. The residents were not granted a permit of transaction, required under military orders in the Occupied Territories for carrying out real-estate deals.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon will decide in the coming days if the settlers will be allowed to stay in the houses, expanding in effect the settlement in the city. Sources close to the defense minister suggested that he is unlikely to approve the move on the grounds that the settlers never received permits required to approve such an action. In the past, houses in dispute have been sealed until the legality of the transaction had been determined.

Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arab-Hebron local council, said: "We are redeeming two more buildings in Hebron, joining a long line of land redeemers of the land of Israel ranging from our forefather Abraham to [Menachem] Ussishkin, [Arthur] Ruppin, [Moses] Montefiore and others."

Likud Minister Zeev Elkin congratulated "the settlers of Hebron for determined action for the expansion of Jewish presence in the city of our forefathers." 

Elkin said that the homes were legally purchased and urged Ya'alon "to help the settlers as best as he can and not to give in to the pressures of Palestinian rioters. "The appropriate answer to murderous Palestinian terrorism, throughout Zionist history, was the expansion of settlements," he added.

The last purchase claimed by the settlers in the city, the "Beit Hamachpela," also near the Cave of the Patriarchs, ended in disappointment after a military appeals committee discussed the issue and decided that the acquisition was not legally completed. In a prior purchasing incident, in 2007, "the Brown House" was inhabited by Jews with approval from the Supreme Court after many legal turnovers.

Meanwhile, settlers affiliated with the Ir David Foundaion NGO, or Elad, moved into a two-story building in the Silwan neighborhood of Wadi Hilwa in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The bottom floor of the building was sold, according to residents, to the settler NGO by a local of Umm Tuba in south Jerusalem. The individual rejected the claims, swearing on the al-Aqsa Mosque that he hadn't sold the building to Jews. The second floor of the building was constructed relatively quickly in the last few months.