The Jewish families who moved into two abandoned adjacent buildings in the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday, did so illegally aides to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said.
According to a spokesman for the families, Shlomo Levinger, the buildings were purchased from their Palestinian owners who have since fled. He explained that the families had proof of sale and all the necessary legal permits from the civil administration to inhabit the structures, save for Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s signature.
Aides to Ya'alon said the families lack three critical approvals from upper diplomatic and defense echelons that are needed for them to legally live in the structures.
The buildings are located on the road that runs past the Cave of the Patriarchs in the direction of the Avraham Avinu apartment complex.
They have been named Beit Rachel and Beit Leah.
This is the first time in four years that Hebron’s Jewish community, which comprises some 1,000 people, has purchased a building.
Their entry caught Israel's diplomatic and security establishment by surprise.
Border Police and IDF soldiers were stationed outside the two buildings, but they allowed people to move in and out, Levinger said. He added that some 300 teens were inside the structures with their families.
In the afternoon, a riot broke out between settlers and Palestinians near the Cave of the Patriarchs. The IDF shot tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Right-wing politicians, including Likud ministers, immediately hailed the acquisition.
Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) called on Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to allow the families to stay in the buildings and not to cave in to Palestinian pressure to remove them.
“Expanding the settlement enterprise has been the right response to Palestinian terrorism throughout the history of Zionism,” he said.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that such action “is more important now than ever. I welcome the determined and blessed efforts of the Hebron residents to redeem and build the land. It is the historic right of the Jewish people to do so,” he said.
The acquisition of the two buildings marks the third time in the last decade that Jews have purchased and attempted to move into Palestinian homes.
In 2012, Jewish families in Hebron purchased a three-story stone structure near the parking lot of the Cave of the Patriarchs called Beit Hamachpela.
Protracted legal wrangling with the civil administration has prevented the families from moving in.
In 2007, Jewish families moved into a four-story structure called Beit Hashalom, but were forcibly evicted a year later by the IDF.
The civil administration allowed them to move back in 2014, after their purchase of the structure was legally validated. The building is located on the road that runs between the Kiryat Arba settlement and the Cave of the Patriarchs.