Israeli police have removed Jewish settlers from the disputed Machpelah apartment complex in Hebron. The settler community there claims to have purchased the house legally, but they were not able to sufficiently prove this to the Israeli government. Despite a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wait until the settlers' case could be heard in court, Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared that the settlers had already had enough time and ordered their eviction. He may have feared the house would attract visitors and generate unrest during the Passover holiday.
Many called on Netanyahu to revoke the eviction order, but Yasam special police forces executed the eviction and forcibly removed settlers who resisted. The three-story apartment building has been sealed until a court can determine the legal owner, and the settler community, which consists of 15 families that had moved into the Machpelah building, established tents outside and say they have no intention of leaving their property.
Machpelah is not the only disputed settler residence facing eviction. Five apartment buildings at the Ulpana outpost in the Beit El settlement were built on privately owned Palestinian land, and the 30 families living there could be evicted in May. However, the Israeli government is also looking for a way to legalise the buildings, and the decision is expected to be made by Netanyahu. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticised the Machpelah eviction and warned that further evictions would fracture the governing coalition.
Sivan Raviv, JN1, Israel.