AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Palestinian property rights under attack; setters attempt multiple land-grabs in Hebron

CPTnet
13 March 2013
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Palestinian property rights under attack; setters attempt multiple land-grabs in Hebron

The Al-Rajabi building.
Photo EAPPI

Settlers have won a victory in their ongoing attempt to grab land for a new settlement in Hebron.  On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court agreed to hand over the Al-Rajabi building in the Old City of Hebron to settlers, despite the grim humanitarian impacts of the decision on Palestinians living in the neighborhood.  The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has appealed to the international community to speak out against this violation of Palestinian property rights, and to use all means available to prevent the creation of a new settlement in the Old City of Hebron.

Settlers claimed ownership of Al-Rajabi house on 19 September 2007, when a group of them stormed into the building in the middle of the night.  In November 2008, the court found that the settler’s purchase documents were forged and evicted them, placing the building under military control pending a final decision.  In reaction, Hebron settlers set fire to Palestinian homes, farms, olive trees, and vehicles in the area.  Six Palestinians were injured, two with live ammunition.  On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinian owner of the building must, against his will, accept payment from Israeli settlers in the amount specified in the forged sale documents.  

A thirty minute walk from the Al Rajabi building settlers are using “archaeology” in to rewrite the history of the city and take control of two large plots of land on top of the hilly neighborhood of Tel Rumeida.  On 5 January, Israeli settlers and soldiers uprooted fifty almond trees belonging to the Abu Heikal family, and began digging on two plots of land that surround the family’s home, and which the family has leased and cultivated for sixty-five years.

Since January, the settlers have used heavy earth-moving equipment to remove truckloads of soil from the orchard.  Tall metal fences now cut the Abu Heikal home off from the orchard, leaving the house accessible by only a narrow drive.  Fencing off the land, which soldiers have declared a “closed military zone,” has also isolated portions of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, making it difficult for residents to walk to shops and the nearby mosque.


Israelis have unearthed and desecrated what Palestinian archaeological experts believe are three Muslim graves,
constructed on bedrock with stones pointing toward Mecca. Pictured is second of three Muslim graves unearthed by
settlers digging on Tel Rumeida. In this photo, the grave has been partially removed.

 

This public footpath has been fenced off
and replaced with a onger path with a
gate at each end, leading to these steep
and precarious dirt steps

According to Hamed Salem, chairperson of Birzeit University’s archaeology department, the dig is illegal and is merely an attempt to “advance the settler’s political agenda by using archaeology to justify their presence in Hebron.” (Electronic Intifada) An archaeologist from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities recently attempted to inspect the site but was denied access. The Israeli Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the dig, and expect it to cost an estimated NIS seven million.  Residents of Tel Rumeida fear that because such a large sum has been allocated there may be plans for much greater destruction of surrounding ancient olive trees and orchards.  The Abu Heikal family is currently challenging the legality of the excavation in the Israeli Civil Court system.

Roughly midway between the Al Rajabi building and Tel Rumeida, near the Ibrahimi Mosque, settlers are attempting to gain control of five buildings: the Bouderi House and the Tomb of Abner, both directly outside the entrance to the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Ashhab Shops, across the street from the Gutnick Center, which is directly in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Abu Rajab house near Checkpoint 209, and the Al-Sharif House, the front door of which opens onto the street just below the Ibrahimi Mosque. In recent months settlers and soldiers seeking to access the Al-Sharif building have attempted to open the house from the front directly below the mosque by breaking open a welded door, and have repeatedly invaded the home of the Al-Atrash family, which shares an enclosed courtyard with the Al Sharif building.  If settlers are allowed to occupy these seven sites the humanitarian impacts on residents of Hebron’s Old City neighborhoods will be devastating.  The targeted properties are links in a chain that, if completed, would effectively encircle the Ibrahimi Mosque and link the four existing settlements inside the Old City to the larger settlement of Kiryat Arba, which borders the Old City.  This connection would cut off Palestinian neighborhoods and homes from access to schools and services, and would put all of the Old City under increased risk of settler incursions and violence.  Currently about 500 settlers live in the four downtown Hebron settlements of Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano, and Tel Rumeida.  An additional 7000 live in Kiryat Arba.

 

 

Israeli settlers recently hung this banner on the wall of the Islamic cemetery on Shuhada Street, closed
to Palestinians, despite an Israeli court order an international agreement underwritten by the United States.