Almost one week after dozens of extremist Israeli settlers raided and occupied a Palestinian home in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, an Israeli settler declared yesterday that he and his family will be officially moving into the home, despite an ongoing legal battle between the Palestinian homeowners and Israelis.
The Israeli settler who made the declaration, according to Hebrew media, was Yossi Dagan, a leader of the Homesh First organisation – an umbrella organisation of right-wing settler groups whose goal is to rebuild Homesh settlement which was destroyed and evacuated by the Israeli government in 2005.
Hebrew media reported yesterday that Dagan accused the Israeli government of "stalling" on legal procedures, and called on Israeli leaders to "stop this injustice" and to move the ownership of the home to Dagan and the settlers of Hebron. The Palestinian Abu Rajab family own the property and were abruptly and violently evicted from it last week.
Residents of the Abu Rajab house, located in the Old City of Hebron near the Ibrahimi Mosque, have been embroiled in a legal battle with Israeli settlers for years, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to encourage the establishment of a new illegal Israeli settlement there to be named Beit Hamachpela.
However, Israeli authorities have not granted permission to establish the settlement on the grounds that the settlers have failed to prove their alleged purchase of the Palestinian house, as the Palestinians have accused the settlers of forging the documents.
Netanyahu reportedly asked Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman to send an army delegation to negotiate with the settlers and evacuate them from the building.
However, the settlers posted a Hebrew-language sign on the building reminding Netanyahu of a statement he had written in December 2013:
Prime Minister Netanyahu: To house and to populate the house of patriarchs. He who tries to uproot us from the city of our ancestors will find the opposite. We will continue to fight terrorism and strike terrorists in one hand, and in the other hand, we will strengthen settlements.
At the time of his statement, Netanyahu had allowed settlers to take over the Abu Rajab family's building.
However, the decision was suspended after the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) appealed the decision in an Israeli court.
Since occupying the property, settlers have moved furniture into it and hung large Israeli flags. Israeli occupation forces have also threatened to detain members of the Abu Rajab family if they come near the building.
HRC lawyer Tawfiq Jahshan told Ma'an on Sunday that the Abu Rajab building was first stormed by settlers in March 2012, adding that the Palestinian family had submitted six complaints to Israeli courts before a ruling was reached to evacuate the settlers from the premises.
"We filed a complaint to Israeli police before midnight [on July 25] asking to evacuate the settlers, and the day after we talked to Israeli legal organisations," Jahshan said. "If the settlers are not evacuated, we will take the case to Israeli courts."