Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hebron Watch -- Beginning of the Redemption?

Worth quoting in full...

Last update - 09:34 09/08/2007 Evacuation orders issued to settlers in four Hebron stores

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent

The Civil Administration has issued evacuation orders for four more Hebron stores where settlers squatted two years ago. The stores are located in the "triangle market," not far from the wholesale market from where two Jewish families were evacuated by Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday.

The evacuation order, which was issued following a petition by Peace Now, will not take place immediately as the settlers have appealed to the Judea and Samaria Appeals Committee, and their case will be heard in two weeks.

The stores in question are on Jewish-owned land that was inhabited by Jews until 1929, when Arabs massacred many members of the local community and the survivors fled.

But the settlers argue that aside from being on Jewish-owned land, the stores are an integral part of the Jewish Avraham Avinu neighborhood: They share common walls with the houses on the edge of the neighborhood, and the neighborhood's access road passes between them.

Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled Hebron, the stores were managed by the kingdom's custodian of enemy property. After Israel captured the territories in 1967, it upheld the leases that Palestinian shopkeepers had signed with the Jordanian body and gave them the status of protected tenants.

In 1994, following both Baruch Goldstein's massacre of Muslim worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs and a stabbing in the area, the IDF closed both the wholesale and triangle markets and forbade Palestinian merchants to enter. Some time later, after the squatters moved in, two of the merchants who had rented the stores asked Peace Now to approach the Civil Administration for an eviction order on their behalf.

The Civil Administration granted the order, ruling that the army's closure of the market did not cancel the tenants' rights to the stores, and that the Jewish squatters had no rights to the property. "This was a deliberate, planned and illegal act that challenged the rule of law in the city of Hebron," it wrote in its submission to the appeals committee.

Orit Struk, one of the leaders of Hebron's Jewish community, said the army prepared a defensive plan for the Hebron settlers "whose goal was to reduce to a minimum the number of [closed] Palestinian stores in the vicinity of the Jewish community," and this plan was approved by the military prosecution, the state prosecution and "every professional and political echelon."

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now retorted that the squatters were following the settlers' well-known recipe for "taking over properties in Hebron. The authorities see everything and know what has been done, but choose to ignore it and do nothing until a complaint is filed. Only when we threatened to go to the High Court of Justice did the system begin to move, and I hope that in the end, the squatters will be evacuated, as happened in the wholesale market."

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