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Victory in Hebron

Hebron wholesale market186x140.jpg

Following legal measures taken by Israel's Peace Now movement, settlers who had illegally taken over Palestinian shops in the wholesale market of Hebron, today peacefully left the building.

In 2001, during the second intifada, as part of a general military closure of Hebron, Palestinian shopkeepers were no longer permitted to enter their shops. Soon thereafter, settlers moved into the shops, and had even rented some of them as apartments.

In January 2007, when Peace Now first discovered the invasion, it filed a complaint with the Police and Civil Administration. By June 2007, the settlers received eviction orders. The settlers appealed against the eviction orders in the military court, which rejected the appeal and ordered them evicted on May 26, 2008. The authorities, however, did not enforce the eviction orders and the settlers continued to live in the shops.

In 2010, Peace Now together with the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) appealed to the Supreme Court demanding the implementation of the eviction order. On December 26th 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the shops should be evicted by tomorrow, April 24, 2013. To preempt an eviction by force tomorrow, the settlers left the apartments today on their own volition.

The shops are located on lands that were originally owned by the Ezra family, a Jewish family, before the war of 1948. Under Jordanian control, the Jordanian government leased the space to Palestinian shopkeepers for their use as protected tenants. In 1967, when Israel captured Hebron, the Israeli military government in the West Bank continued the rental agreement with the Palestinian shopkeepers who are still considered protected tenants.

Following the de-facto eviction of Palestinians from downtown Hebron a decade ago, the settlers requested the state to cancel the protected tenants' status of the shopkeepers since the tenants were "anyway" restricted from entering the property. This request however, presented a legal and political predicament for the state. If the state cancelled the protected status, it would insinuate that the military closure is not a temporary measure, but a permanent one. In addition, had the State accepted the right of the Jewish owners to return to their property in Hebron, it would mean that the Israeli government de-facto accepts the right of return, and would make it very hard to explain why the right of Palestinian owners to their pre-1948 properties inside Israel should be denied.

Peace Now said today that the development represents "a small yet important victory in a long struggle to prevent settlement expansion. This victory sends a message to the settlers and to the Israeli public that the settlers will not be allowed to dictate facts on the ground with impunity."