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Netanyahu asked Barak to delay evacuation of Hebron house

12:00 Apr 2 2012 Hebron

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PM asked Barak to allow Jewish settlers who took over a house in Palestinian part of Hebron to exhaust their legal options; IDF previously gave settlers 24 hours to evacuate.

By Barak Ravid for Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to postpone the evacuation of settlers who took over a house in the Arab part of the West Bank city of Hebron last week.

According to officials in Netanyahu's office, the prime minister asked Barak "to allow the settlers to pursue action through legal channels."

The prime minister's office did not say so directly, but Netanyahu's comment to Barak means the delay of the evacuation of the settlers, which was scheduled to take place on Tuesday at 3 P.M.

A defense official said that that the Israel Defense Forces will allow the settlers to prove that the house is legally theirs by Tuesday at 3 P.M.

"If they do not succeed to prove it, the defense establishment will then enforce the law based on its judgment," he said, adding that the IDF will enforce the law, but the question of when will be based on operational considerations.

Earlier Monday, the IDF has issued an eviction order for the settlers. According to the order, the settlers have until Tuesday at 3:00 PM to evacuate the house on their own will, after which "the authorities will act to restore the building to its previous state."

The security establishment has called the takeover a provocation, and says that the settlers' presence in the house constitutes a public disturbance. However, the move has won the support of some politicians.

The settlers said they purchased the property legally. Their representatives showed records of the deal on Sunday, including money transfers, to Military Advocate General staff.

The house is located in a closed military zone, but Jewish community activists come and go freely through the area.

A key figure in the land purchase is Assaf Nehmad, a former Shin Bet security service man, who speaks Arabic and helps settlers purchase land from Arab owners who may be unwilling to sell to someone they know is Jewish.

Nehmad owns 99 percent of the company that purchased the house, Al-Aydun al-Akarat, which he founded in 2010 when the settlers first started trying to buy the house.

According to material presented Sunday to the Military Advocate General's staff, the house was registered to two Palestinians, one of whom bequeathed ti to a Palestinian man by the name of Hosni al-Tamimi. Tamimi sold it to a front man for the settlers, Mohammed Abu-Shahala, who sold it to Al-Aydun.

Sources in Hebron said that Abu-Shahala, who is originally from Gaza, was an officer in the Palestinian Authority security forces, which is how he got to the West Bank.
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