Israeli Settlers Occupy Homes in Hebron Claimed to Be Palestinian

Ownership of the houses has been in dispute for several years, but the settlers have yet to provide proof of purchase

An Israeli soldier guards a family of Israeli settlers standing in front of a Palestinian house after they occupied the building the previous night near the Ibrahimi Mosque, or the Tomb of the Patriarch, in the West Bank town of Hebron on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER

Several dozen Israeli settlers invaded overnight Monday two homes in the city of Hebron in the West Bank. The homes, located near the Tomb of the Patriarchs and some distance from the Jewish settlement in Hebron, were abandoned up to this point.

Ownership of the houses has been in dispute for several years, and it is yet unclear whether they have been purchased by the settlers from the Palestinians, or if they are still Palestinian owned. The settlers have yet to provide proof of purchase.

In 2016, settlers from the Hashmiei Kol Ohalech foundation, which purchases homes in Hebron for Jews, were evicted. This is the second time they are squatting in these homes.

Last week, settlers from the same foundation began vacating another contested home in the city. The removal of the settlers, which defense sources said was taking place with their agreement, came after a High Court of Justice ruling allowing the eviction earlier this month. The court denied the settlers’ petition to remain in the three-story building, stressing they had not proved their ownership. The settlers agreed to leave the house after they were promised ownership deliberations would be expedited.

The abandoned home in Hebron, draped in an Israeli flag, March 27, 2018
Harhivi Makom Ahalech

A security official told Haaretz that the settlers received an initial permit to proceed with the purchase on Sunday prior to entering the homes. The permit is the earliest stage in ownership listing and does not include a proof of purchase procedure. It indicates the Civil Administration recognizes a payment has been made for the property, but has yet to determine whether the payment is valid and was received by the lawful owner of the property. Proving ownership requires inquiry via the initial registration committee. This process can take several years and has yet to occur in this case.

Shlomo Levinger, one of those leading the settlers who invaded the homes, said it is "warm and cozy inside. The mood is calm, pleasant and comfortable." According to Levinger, some twenty families moved into the houses Monday overnight. He added that as of this moment, there is no one stationed or protesting outside the house. "It's all very ordinary."

Levinger claims the settlers purchased the homes in 2012 and were evicted in 2016. They have now returned after receiving the initial purchase permit from the Civil Administration. Levinger was also among those who squatted in Beit Hamachpela since July 2017 and were evicted last week. He quoted interior minister Gilad Erdan saying that in early 2017, Police inquired Palestinians complaints that purchase permit were falsified and had decided to close the case for lack of evidence of forgery. In practice, no initial registration has taken place to determine ownership of the properties.

According to security officials, there is no concrete plan to evict the settlers as of Monday.