Settlers removed from Hebron buildings


(JTA) — Israeli troops removed several dozen settlers from two buildings in Hebron, which the settlers said they had bought from Palestinians.

The evacuation Friday morning followed the settlers’ entrance into the buildings on Thursday, Army Radio reported. It came closely after confirmation by Israel of its controversial plan to seize land near Jericho despite opposition to the move by the United Nations and the United States.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the settlers’ presence in the two buildings in a Palestinian part of Hebron was not authorized by the Israel Defense Forces, which has administrative power over Israelis in the area, and was therefore illegal.

“Israel is a country that is run based on laws, and I have no intention of compromising when those laws are blatantly violated,” Army Radio quoted him saying. The individuals resisted their forceful removal, but no one was hurt in the evacuation.

Separately, the Defense Ministry confirmed in an email to Reuters Thursday that it planned to seize 380 acres in the West Bank, close to Jordan and the Palestinian city of Jericho.

“Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement.

The United States, whose ambassador angered Israel this week with criticism of the Jewish state’s West Bank policies, said it was strongly opposed to any moves that accelerate settlement expansion.

“We believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question, frankly, the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution,” deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday.

Reacting to the eviction in Hebron, two right-wing lawmakers, Likud’s Oren Hazan and the Jewish Home’s Bezalel Smotrich, said they might break their voting discipline with the coalition following the eviction.

“Minister Ya’alon’s private security policy cannot be allowed to continue,” Hazan wrote on Twitter. “Unless a solution is found to the houses in Hebron, I do not commit to voting with the coalition.”

Israel’s 34th government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relies on a narrow coalition of 61 lawmakers at the Knesset, with 59 lawmakers in the opposition. This means the government needs the vote of every member of the coalition to pass laws and push through budgets.

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