Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Netanyahu overrules evacuation of settlers in Hebron
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overruled the planned eviction on Tuesday of Jewish settlers from a Palestinian house in Hebron near the Ibrahimi mosque. Some 20 settlers moved into the Hebron building last Thursday at night, seeking to expand a settlement of some 500 families in the heart of the ancient city.
The settlers say they bought the two-storey structure from its Palestinian owner. But the Palestinian police denies this. Ramadan Awad, chief of Palestinian police in the city, denied the validity of any such deal, saying the building had more than 50 owners. "One of its owners sold his share to a Palestinian from Gaza presently in the West Bank, who was detained and held by the (Palestinian) security forces to investigate whether he sold it to settlers," Awad told Reuters. "Even if he sold that share, it represents only a small part of the whole house."
Citing the need to maintain calm, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the settlers out by three o'clock on Tuesday. However, an Israeli official said that "the prime minister has asked the defense minister to give the settlers in the building time to allow them the possibility of pursuing legal proceedings." Asked when the settlers in the disputed Hebron building might now face eviction, a Barak aide declined to provide details, saying there were "operational considerations".
Under Palestinian law it is forbiden to sell Palestinian property to Jewish owners. But the settlers said they purchased the property legally. Their representatives showed records of the deal on Sunday, including money transfers, to Military Advocate General staff.
Disputes like this are not uncommon, as settler organisations usually use middlemen or fake companies to purchase property from Palestinians. Haaretz reported that in this case a key role was played by Assaf Nehmad, a former Shin Bet security service man, who speaks Arabic and helps settlers purchase land from Arab owners.Nehmad owns 99 percent of the company that purchased the house, Al-Aydun al-Akarat, which he founded in 2010 when the settlers first started trying to buy the house.
According to material presented Sunday to the Military Advocate General's staff, the house was registered to two Palestinians, one of whom bequeathed it to a Palestinian man by the name of Hosni al-Tamimi. Tamimi sold it to a front man for the settlers, Mohammed Abu-Shahala, who sold it to Al-Aydun. Sources in Hebron said that Abu-Shahala, who is originally from Gaza, was an officer in the Palestinian Authority security forces, which is how he got to the West Bank.He made a number of property deals over the past few years and is now detained in a PA investigation facility.