Police: Settlers' papers on Hebron building were forged

Crimes Investigation Department confutes documents allegedly proving Jewish ownership of house.

hebron settlers 298.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
hebron settlers 298.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The police Crimes Investigation Department has concluded that documents presented by two Jewish companies meant to prove they legally purchased the Beit Hashalom four-storey building in Hebron from Palestinians were either forged or there is substantial doubt as to their authenticity, the state informed the High Court of Justice on Tuesday. The information was included in a reply by the state meant to update the court on the eve of a hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, on a petition by Mahmud Regbi, a Palestinian who claims to own the building. A group of settlers broke into the building on March 19, claiming that the two companies, Tal Investments and the Association for Renewing the Jewish Community in Hebron, had purchased it from its Palestinian owners for NIS 700,000. The state also announced that, should it be determined that the building was not purchased by the Jewish companies, the rule governing "fresh illegal seizure of property" will be in force and the police will be authorized to expel the settlers currently living in the building without giving them the opportunity to appeal. According to the law, during the first 30 days of an illegal occupation of property - i.e. a "fresh illegal seizure - police may evict the squatters after issuing an eviction order. After that, the squatters have the right to appeal in court against the eviction order. The state informed the court that the 30-day clock stopped the minute that Regbi asked authorities for help in evicting the alleged squatters. Therefore, should police determine that the claims by the Jewish companies on the building are invalid, the rules applying to fresh illegal seizure will apply and the building can be evacuated without further delay. Because that fact was unclear until now, then-defense minister Amir Peretz ordered the civil administration to evict the settlers on the grounds that the transaction whereby the building was allegedly sold by its former owners to the Jewish companies had not been approved by the Civil Administration, as is required according to a military order. That eviction procedure is currently under way, but is moving slowly. On April 26, the companies filed an objection to the eviction order. The Civil Administration rejected it on May 6. On May 21, the companies filed an appeal with the Civil Administration's appellant committee. The Civil Administration replied to the appeal on June 18. The appellant committee has set the date of the hearing for mid-July. During all this time, the Jewish settlers have continued to occupy the building. Nadav Haetzni, an attorney for the Hebron Jewish community, said that the state's statements referred to only some of the many documents which are authentic and prove the legality of the purchase of the four-story building, which sits on the main road between Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The state erred in releasing such a statement prematurely before it had investigated all the evidence, said Haetzni. Among the documentation he plans to submit to the High Court of Justice is a videotape in which the building's former owner, Regbi, is allegedly seen taking money for the structure. In addition, said Haetzni, he has a video that shows that the settlers entered an open home and did not break in. A spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community said that everything in connection with the purchase of the structure was "done legally and will be proven as such." Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.