The Jerusalem District Court ruled on Monday that an Israeli firm did not legally purchase a disputed home in Hebron from its original Palestinian owners and ordered that the settlers living inside since 2005 evacuate within 45 days.
The panel of judges determined that the “Tal Construction and Investment in Karnei Shomron” firm did not prove good faith in its purchase of the home, belonging to the Bakri family in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood.
The rejection of an appeal by Tal Construction was the latest ruling in a legal battle that started shortly after the Palestinian family left its home in 2001. It was in the midst of the Second Intifada, when the flashpoint city of Hebron saw daily violence and the family said it planned to return when the situation calmed down.
A 2002 Defense Ministry report documented how “Jews broke into the house, emptied it of its contents and stored everything in one room, destroying the balcony at the entrance to the house, and damaging the windows and doors.”
In 2005, three families moved into the compound, but were ordered by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to leave shortly thereafter. However, the state never carried out the evacuation, and Tal Construction notified the court that the families were living in the Bakri house on its behalf after it claimed to have purchased the asset.
That announcement further delayed the evacuation as the Magistrate’s Court declared that it did not have the authority to rule on the case.
In the proceedings that followed, it was determined that Tal Construction had not purchased the Bakri home from the real landowners, but rather from a third party that falsified documents in order to carry out the sale.
The Bakris subsequently petitioned the High Court of Justice to have the Israeli families squatting in their home immediately removed. However, the request was not executed after Tal Construction submitted a procedure back in the Magistrate’s Court in 2013 to legitimize its purchase, based on an Ottoman-era law that states that if a party takes over an asset and invests more than its initial value, it has effectively purchased the property.
It took five years for the Magistrate’s Court to reach a decision on the matter, but last March, it deemed that Tal Construction had not acquired the property “in good faith.”
That decision was reaffirmed in Monday’s District Court ruling on the Israeli firm’s appeal.
Asked for comment on the court’s decision, a spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron predicted that it would not be the final ruling pertaining to the property.
“We will study the verdict and act in accordance with the law,” he said.
The Peace Now settlement watchdog said in a statement that the “court again ruled that the settlers had forged [documents] and lied all along… We hope that after [almost] two decades of violence, lies and terror, justice will be carried out and the invaders will be evicted.”
The Bakri House is just one of a handful of Hebron properties that have come under dispute in recent decades as settlers seek to purchase land in order to expand their presence in the ancient city.
Last August, a group of Israeli settlers reentered the Machpela House near the Tomb of the Patriarchs after a Defense Ministry committee authorized their purchase of half the compound.
The occupancy of the Machpela House nearly a year and a half after squatting settlers were ordered to leave appeared to have been premature, given that an additional legal step is required to determine which part of the home now belongs to them. However, no steps have been taken to clear the compound in the meantime.