Israeli residents in Hebron are in standoff with the IDF, having chosen to respond to the recent wave of Palestinian violence by establishing a new home in the city.  The IDF has declared the area a closed military zone.

The Hebron building known as Beit Hamachpela was declared a closed military zone Wednesday morning after more than 100 people entered the three-storey complex late Tuesday afternoon in what they said was a response to the massacre of three members of the Salomon family in Neve Tzuf last Friday.

Dozens of people tried to join the 15 families in the building, but were blocked by security forces on the spot.

Hebron residents say they purchased the building from private Palestinian owners in 2009. However, in 2015, the Civil Administration rejected their ownership of the building, saying they have not “proven purchase of the property, nor the possession of it,” as they had not provided sufficient documentation.

But now, community leaders told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that the Civil Administration’s higher appeals committee confirmed at a hearing in June that all the relevant documentation had been received and that the process of registration of ownership could continue.

Shlomo Levinger, one of the protesters inside the building and the brother of Kiryat Arba Mayor Malachi Levinger, said he believed the approval process was now a formality. Levinger said he does not expect they will be ordered to leave the building for a third time after having been evicted in 2009 and 2015.

‘Now is the Time for Brave Decisions’

“We intend to stay here and not to leave. After UNESCO [the United Nations World Heritage Committee registered Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as World Heritage sites earlier this month] and Neve Tzuf, now is the time for brave decisions,” Levinger stated.

Malachi Levinger, mayor of Kiryat Arba, the Jewish community adjacent to Hebron, added that the community will go “all the way this time.”

“We want to realize the prime minister’s promise that every Jew has a right to purchase a home in Israel and to settle there,” he said.

The leftwing Peace Now organization said that allowing the settlers to remain in Beit Hamachpela would severely hinder Palestinian freedom of movement and add to the rising tensions in the area.

“We demand that the government order the immediate evacuation of the settlers who invaded Beit Hamachpela. After their claims of ownership had been denied, the settlers have decided to take the law into their own hands and establish an illegal settlement that might ignite the region. We call upon the prime minister and the minister of defense to follow the law and the Israeli interest and evacuate the trespassers without delay,” the group said in a statement.

Minister Elkin: ‘Appropriate Nationalist Response’

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin praised the move into the building at a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction. He called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to allow the families to remain in the building as an “appropriate nationalist response.”

“Beit Hamachpela was purchased several years ago, but the government of Israel shamefully prevents the families from taking up residence in the property they purchased without any legal or moral justification,” representatives of the 15 families said.

“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. 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 Beit Hamachpela forthwith.”

By: Ilan Evyatar/TPS and United with Israel Staff

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