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Israel will enlarge Jewish settlement enclaves in Hebron and include them within the country's final borders, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who is helping to formulate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's realignment plan, said Thursday.
It is the first time someone working on the plan has said that Israel intends to allow the Jewish settlement in Hebron to grow, although Schneller stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity.
The High Court of Justice in January forced eight families to leave eight empty market stalls they had turned into homes just beyond the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. It also forced three families to leave a home outside the same neighborhood earlier this month.
But in spite of these two moves, Schneller said that the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron would be connected to the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba, and the two communities would be included in Israel.
"The Jewish neighborhood in Hebron will grow" and be linked to Kiryat Arba, Schneller told The Jerusalem Post. "Hebron and Kiryat Arba are supposed to be part of the Israeli state."
Olmert's government has not spoken formally of its plans for Hebron. A government source said he did not want to comment specifically on Schneller's comments but added that Israel has always planned to retain the holy sites in Hebron.
Noam Arnon, a spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, said former prime minister Ariel Sharon had already stated and always insisted that Hebron's Jewish community would remain part of Israel's final borders.
AP contributed to this report.