Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday allowed Jewish settlers to reoccupy a Hebron house known as Beit Hameriva, or “house of contention,” that was evacuated in 2008, following a ruling by the Jerusalem District Court that the 2007 acquisition of the house by settlers was legal.
The court ruled on September 13 that the building, located on the main road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, would be handed over to the settlers within 30 days.
Palestinians who claim ownership of the house are expected to appeal the decision.
The ruling became the subject of contention last week between the Justice Ministry and the Defense Ministry. According to the former’s interpretation, the ruling did not require the state to allow the settlers to enter the house, leaving the decision with the government, while the Defense Ministry claimed otherwise.
The issue was due for discussion at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, but the defense minister’s decision, based on a recommendation by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Eitan Dganot, appeared to have finalized the dispute.
The building was originally purchased from its Palestinian owners by the Tal construction company in 2007. Ownership was then transferred to the local Jewish community.
The sale was disputed in the High Court, and in late 2008 the IDF evacuated settlers who had moved into the house.
At the time, the High Court ruled the settlers did not have a solid claim to the four-story building. The evacuation caused riots in which two Palestinians were injured.
The contested building in Hebron is just one in a series of buildings of which Israeli residents in the area have claimed ownership. Settlers have been attempting to purchase property in Hebron for several years; many of the purchases have been contested in court.
AP contributed to this report.