Police seek to close case on settlers’ Hebron home purchases

Cops reject Palestinian claims that Jews forged sale contracts of two buildings near Tomb of Patriarchs last year

Settlers in Hebron force entry into several properties they claimed to have secretly bought on January 21, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)
Settlers in Hebron force entry into several properties they claimed to have secretly bought on January 21, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)

Police on Friday recommended closing a case opened by a Palestinian man who claimed that settlers forged purchase documents for two buildings in the West Bank city of Hebron.

A final ruling on the case was expected by the State Prosecutor’s Office in the coming days. The office was expected to accept the police recommendation, according to Hebrew reports.

Last January, Border Police evacuated several dozen Jewish settlers from two houses, which they named the Houses of Rachel and Leah, a day after they entered the buildings.

The Jewish residents had maintained they purchased the properties legally from the Palestinian owners. Palestinians, meanwhile, claimed the settlers had forged the ownership documents for the houses, which are located near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

A year later, the investigators found no evidence the contracts were forged, but did find that several people had been detained by the Palestinian Authority on suspicion of selling the buildings to Jews, according to Israel Radio.

At the time of the sale, it was not clear who legally owned the properties. According to reports on Palestinian Authority TV, the properties were owned by the al-Za’atari and al-Qadfisha families.

A representative of the Jewish community of Hebron last year said otherwise. “The new homes were purchased from their Arab owners,” Uri Karzen, director of the Jewish community of Hebron, said in a tweet at the time.

Following the settlers’ removal from the building, which was condemned by some right-wing MKs and backed by then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a swift investigation into the case and a speedy resolution.

Netanyahu vowed last year that “as soon as the purchase process is approved, we will allow the [buyers] to take possession of the two Hebron homes, as happened in similar incidents in the past. The examination [of the purchase] begins today. It will be carried out as quickly as possible, and in any case, if it isn’t completed within a week, I will make sure a report on the issue will be submitted to the cabinet within a week.”

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