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Settlers get okay for Seder in contested Hebron building

Ownership of the ‘Peace House’ was challenged by local Palestinian, but ultimately approved by Supreme Court

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jewish settler families move belongings into a contested house in the volatile city of Hebron after a protracted legal battle, April 13, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Jewish settler families move belongings into a contested house in the volatile city of Hebron after a protracted legal battle, April 13, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave approval Sunday for settlers to move back into a disputed building in Hebron. The building, known by settlers as the “Peace House,” was already being prepared Sunday to house three families who intend to celebrate the Passover festival at the site on Monday evening.

The four-story structure had been at the center of a seven-year legal battle. Last month the Supreme Court rejected a petition by a Palestinian man who claimed that the 2007 purchase of the building by Jews was illegal, leaving Ya’alon’s approval as the last step to reoccupying the building.

The court ruled that Faiz Rajabi’s claim that papers documenting the sale had been falsified was unfounded, and added that legal ownership of the building should be returned to the settlers at once.

The ruling came a year after the court’s initial decision to reject Rajabi’s claim and to accept the Jewish settlers’ plea regarding ownership of the house, which had been standing vacant since 2008 following a forced IDF eviction

In 2007, the building was settled by Jewish residents of the city after they claimed to have purchased it from its original Palestinian owner, Rajabi. Rajabi appealed to the Supreme Court immediately after they moved into the building.

The settlers remained in the building for nearly a year, against the advice of the IDF and the Defense Ministry. In late 2008, the IDF evacuated them, a move that met with violent opposition from the city’s settlers and other right-wing activists who arrived at the scene. Several settlers were wounded during the clashes, and a number of Palestinian stores were vandalized.

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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