Hebron building left alone - for now

Fearing settler violence, IDF might wait for several weeks, then evacuate building without prior warning.

Hebron building 248.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hebron building 248.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Fearing extreme violence, the IDF does not plan to evacuate the disputed four-story building in Hebron this week, senior defense officials said on Wednesday. Initially it was expected that the IDF would move immediately to forcibly remove the nine families who live there once the court-ordered deadline for their voluntary exit expired Wednesday morning. According to defense officials, the decision to postpone the evacuation was made due to festivities planned for the weekend in the Jewish section of the city and concern that right-wing activists would barricade themselves in the building, known as Beit Hashalom. It is located on Worshipers' Way, the road that leads between the Kiryat Arba settlement and the Cave of the Patriarchs. This weekend, in honor of the reading of the Torah portion that describes Abraham's purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs, thousands of worshipers are expected to spend Shabbat in the city. Settlers first moved into Beit Hashalom in March 2007, claiming that they had purchased the building from its Palestinian owner, Faez Rajabi. Police have said the documents of sale were forged. Although the issue of ownership is still under legal debate, the High Court of Justice has said there is enough administrative evidence to uphold the Palestinian claim and that, as such, the Hebron Jews should not live there. On Sunday it ordered the families at the site to leave by Wednesday morning. Instead of packing their bags, the families have said they plan to remain until they are forcibly removed. They have also called on activists who support their presence to join them. Five new families have since moved in, including that of Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev. Scores of teens have also arrived to lend their support to the settlers who live in the building. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet with military and police officers on Thursday to review plans for the evacuation, which is expected to be met with violent settler resistance. Settlers have said they only plan to defend themselves. But MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) warned that if security personnel try to expel the residents, the clashes between them and the settlers will be worse than those which occurred at the Amona outpost in 2006, when some 200 people on both sides were injured. One possibility under consideration by the IDF is to postpone the evacuation for several weeks in the hope that some of the people in the building will leave. The evacuation, defense officials said, would likely take place at night and without any warning in an effort to prevent right-wing reinforcements from reaching the area to resist.