JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 15 Jewish families moved into a three-story West Bank building whose ownership is in dispute.
The ownership of the Hebron building, which is next to the Cave of the Patriarchs and known as the Machpelah House, is under appeal.
The Israeli army’s Civil Administration, which had given the settlers permission to purchase the building, ruled earlier this month that copies of the ownership documents are as good as the originals. The issue has been sent back to the military’s Registration Committee.
A group of settlers claims it purchased the house from its Palestinian owners five years ago; the previous owners now deny the claim.
Israeli soldiers and Border Police surrounded the structure on Tuesday night and were preventing others from entering the building.
The building has been sealed since the evacuation of a dozen families in 2012. Police and soldiers carried out the evacuation on the orders of then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and then-Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.
The new attempt to move into the house follows the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, passing a Palestinian-led motion calling Hebron’s Old City an endangered heritage site in “Palestine.”
“At this time when Jewish blood is being spilled, we call on the government to proudly raise the flag of settlement in the Land of Israel,” a spokesman for the families said Tuesday night. “In the face of the murder of Jews and national stammering, we demand that the government of Israel allow the families to take up residence at the Machpelah House immediately.”