Though aides to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon insisted that the “purchases” were almost certainly illegal, Israeli military forces were deployed to the West Bank city of Hebron to crack down on Palestinians who protested the settler takeover of buildings near an important religious site. Several Palestinians were hospitalized.
Dozens of settlers showed up in Hebron this afternoon, breaking into a pair of buildings they claimed to have purchased, and have declared “Beit Rachel” and “Beit Leah.” The apartment buildings were vacant, but there was no indication that the settlers had any permit to buy land in a Palestinian city.
The proximity of the apartments of the Cave of the Patriarchs, also known as al-Ibrahimi Mosque, adds to the tension, as the site is religiously important to both Muslims and Jews. The Israeli Defense Ministry is said to be undecided yet on allowing the occupation of the buildings to continue.
Takeovers of buildings in Palestinian cities by settler groups tend to be extremely onerous for the Defense Ministry, which ends up having to send massive amounts of military force into those cities to defend a handful of settlers with likely dubious legal basis for the property in the first place.
That said, Israel’s far-right government will almost certainly pressure Ya’alon to allow the occupations to continue, with Likud Minister Zeev Elkin cheering the takeovers as “the appropriate answer to murderous Palestinian terrorism.”
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