Palestinian property rights under attack: Setters attempt multiple land-grabs in Hebron

Settlers  have won a victory in their ongoing attempt to grab land for a new settlement in Hebron.  On March 11 the Israeli Supreme Court agreed to hand over the Al-Rajabi building in the Old City of Hebron to settlers, despite the devastating humanitarian impacts of the decision on Palestinians living in the neighborhood.  The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has appealed to the international community to speak out against this violation of Palestinian property rights, and to  use all means available to prevent the creation of a new settlement in the Old City of Hebron.

The Al-Rajabi building. Photo EAPPI

The Al-Rajabi building. Photo EAPPI

The ownership of Al-Rajabi building has been disputed since 19 September 2007, when a group of settlers stormed the building in the middle of the night claiming its ownership.  In November, 2008, the court found that the settler’s purchase documents were forged and evicted them, placing the building in under military control  pending a final decision.  In reaction  Hebron settlers set fire to Palestinian homes, farms, olive trees, and vehicles in the area.  Six Palestinians were injured, two with live ammunition.  On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinian owners of the building will be forced to accept payment from  Israeli settlers of the amount specified in the forged sale documents.  The decision forces the Palestinian owner of Al-Rajabi building to sell  to the Israeli settlers against his will. A 30 minute walk from the Al Rajabi building settlers are using “archaeology” in an attempt to rewrite the history of the city and take control of two large plots of land on top of the hilly neighborhood of Tel Rumeida.

Israeli settlers recently hung this banner on the wall of the Islamic cemetery on closed Shuhada Street.  Ironically, only a few blocks from where the banner hangs, Israelis have unearthed  and desecrated what Palestinian archaeological experts believe are three Muslim graves, constructed on bedrock with stones pointing toward Mecca.

Israeli settlers recently hung this banner on the wall of the Islamic cemetery on closed Shuhada Street. Ironically, only a few blocks from where the banner hangs, Israelis have unearthed and desecrated what Palestinian archaeological experts believe are three Muslim graves, constructed on bedrock with stones pointing toward Mecca.

 Until early this year the graves lay peacefully beneath the orchard of the Abu Haikal family in Tel Rumeida.  On  January 5 Israeli settlers and soldiers  uprooted 50 almond trees belonging to the Abu Haikal family, and  began digging on two plots of land which surround the family’s home, and which the family has rented and cultivated for 65 years.

Since January the settlers have used heavy earth-moving equipment  to remove truckloads of soil from the orchard.  Tall metal fences now cut the Abu Heikal home off from the orchard, leaving the house accessible by only a narrow drive.  Fencing of the land, which soldiers have declared a “closed military zone” has  also isolated portions of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, making it difficult for residents to walk to shops and the Mosque.

The second of three Muslim graves unearthed by settlers digging on Tel Rumeida.  In this photo the grave has been partially removed.

The second of three Muslim graves unearthed by settlers digging on Tel Rumeida. In this photo the grave has been partially removed.

This public footpath   has been fenced off and replaced with a longer  path with a gate at each end, leading to these steep and precarious dirt steps.

This public footpath has been fenced off and replaced with a longer path with a gate at each end, leading to these steep and precarious dirt steps.

According to Hamed Salem, chairperson of Birzeit University’s archaeology department, the dig is illegal and is merely an attempt to “advance the settler’s political agenda by using archaeology to justify their presence in Hebron”. (Electronic Intifada) An archaeologist from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities recently attempted to inspect the site but was denied access. The Israeli Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the dig, and expect it to cost an estimated NIS 7 million.  Residents of Tel Rumeida fear that because such a large sum has been allocated there may be plans for much greater destruction of surrounding ancient olive trees and orchards. The Abu Haikal family is currently challenging the legality of the excavation in the Israeli Civil Court system. Roughly midway between the Al Rajabi building and Tel Rumeida, near the Ibrahimi Mosque, settlers are attempting to gain control of five buildings. The  Boudieri House and the Tomb of Abner, both directly outside the entrance to the Ibrahimi Mosque,  the Ashhab Shops, across the street from the Gutnick Center, which is directly in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Abu Rajab house near Checkpoint 209, and the  Al-Sharif House, the front door of which opens onto the street just below the Ibrahimi Mosque. In recent months settlers and  soldiers  seeking to access the AL-Sharif building  have attempted to open the house from the front directly below the mosque by breaking open a welded door, and have repeatedly invaded the home of the Al-Atrash family which shares an enclosed courtyard with the Al Sharif building. If settlers are allowed to occupy these seven sites the humanitarian impacts on residents of Hebron’s Old City neighborhoods will be devastating.  The targeted properties are links in a chain which, if completed, would effectively encircle the Ibrahimi Mosque and link the four existing settlements inside the Old City to the larger settlement of Kyriat Arba which borders the Old City. This would result in many Palestinian neighborhoods and homes being cut off from access to schools and services, and would put all of the Old City under increased risk of settler incursions and violence.  Currently about 500 settlers live in the four downtown Hebron settlements of Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano and Tel Rumeida.  An additional 7000 live in Kyriat Arba.

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About Christian Peacemaker Teams Palestine

CPT Palestine is a faith-based organization that supports Palestinian-led, non-violent grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation.
This entry was posted in Hebron, Human Rights, olive trees, settler expansion, Tel Rumeida, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Palestinian property rights under attack: Setters attempt multiple land-grabs in Hebron

  1. Pingback: Urgent call for intervention in attempted creation of new settlement in Hebron | CPT Palestine

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