Israeli security forces evicted dozens of Jewish settlers from an occupied building in Hebron on Wednesday, after a week-long standoff, said the Associated Press.
The raid on the illegal occupation caught the settlers off guard as only a day earlier Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had moved to block the eviction order.
The settlers had moved into the two-story building last Thursday, seeking to expand the settlement of 500 families in Hebron which is home to 180,000 Palestinians. They said they had legally purchased the house from its Palestinian owners, but the Palestinian authorities said the building had more than 50 owners only one of whom sold his share, reported the BBC.
The takeover of the house in the most sensitive area of the West Bank sparked tensions within the Israeli cabinet, with the deputy prime minister, Moshe Yaalon, openly criticizing Ehud Barak, who had authorized the eviction order, said The Guardian.
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On Monday, the Israeli military, which said the settlers had not acquired military approval for the property, gave the settlers until Tuesday afternoon to move out. Netanyahu asked the defense minister to give the settlers more time to make their legal case, and when the deadline passed with no action, media reports suggested the settlers would have until April 25, said the BBC.
However, around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Israeli forces evacuated around 15 people off the premises, among them women and children. There were no confrontations or injuries, according to the police, as reported by the AFP.
David Wilder, a spokesman for Hebron's ultranationalist settler community, said, "He is expelling us from our property and land. We have no doubt, we will be back in that building. It belongs to us," according to the AP.
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The eviction happened on the same day that officials announced a meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad. Settlements have been a major cause of tension between the two sides.
A member of the Palestinian negotiating team, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told Reuters, "The real test in front of Netanyahu is to stop the settlements, after which he will find that we are ready for negotiations. These aren't conditions, but what we want him to say is that he's ready to end the occupation."
The talks will be held after the Jewish holiday of Passover, which ends on April 14.
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