JERUSALEM (JTA) – Jewish settlers remained in a home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, despite the passing of a deadline for them to prove their ownership or vacate the building.
Hours after the Tuesday afternoon deadline for the evacuation of the building passed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with senior government ministers to discuss how to proceed. During a news conference to mark his government’s three years in power, Netanyahu said that he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were “coordinated” on the issue.
The previous evening he asked Barak for a delay of the eviction until the several dozen settlers have an opportunity to prove in court their ownership of the house.
Armed with documents that say they purchased the home from its Arab owner, the Jewish families entered the home in the middle of the night on March 28.
The eviction order issued Monday afternoon by the Israeli military’s Civil Administration said the settlers’ presence in the home violates public order. The residents of the home, including families with young children, also did not request nor receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration.
Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily told Army Radio on Tuesday that the sale papers are forged and that the person who sold the house to the Jewish settlers is not the owner.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz of the Likud Party visited what is being called the Machpelah house Tuesday morning to express his support for the building’s residents. The Cave of the Patriarchs is known as the Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebrew.
"We are not making any preparations to evacuate and have no intention of leaving," Shlomo Levinger, a resident of the house, told Ynet on Monday. "We plan to hold the Passover seder here."