In the evening on 26 March 2018, settlers in Hebron broke into and are currently squatting in a compound of two houses belonging to the Palestinian Zaatari family, known by settlers as Beit Rachel and Beit Leah. The incident transpired after the settlers were granted a transactional permit (heiter iska) by Israeli authorities. This permit represents but one in several legal hurdles to prove that the land purchase is valid before settlers would actually be allowed to enter the compound. Therefore, the break-in on 26 March constitutes an illegal act under Israeli law.
Indeed, the compound’s ownership remains under dispute. The Zaatari family, which had emptied the compound due to severe restrictions on movement in Hebron’s Old City, claims to have never sold the compound. When settlers broke into the same compound in January 2016, they were evicted by Israeli authorities soon afterward. Meanwhile, the land registrar promised the Zaatari family that it would be able to present its own claims if the settlers’ claim were to advance to the First Registration Committee, which would arbitrate on which party owns the compound. To date, the settlers’ claim has not advanced to this stage, and thus has no legal approval.
In a similar case in 2017, settlers in Hebron trespassed onto the Abu Rajab house, known in Israeli media as Beit HaMachpela, wielding a transactional permit from 2012 but without having actually proved ownership before the First Registration Committee. They squatted in the house for eight months, until the High Court of Justice ordered an eviction last week after they were unable prove their purchase.
Peace Now: “The settlers’ recent break-in into the Zaatari compound constitutes just the latest in a slew of such unauthorized incidents in Hebron. Their strategy is clear. Since they have failed thus far to obtain the ownership rights legally, instead they must resort to illegal means to establish facts on the ground by squatting, knowing that the right-wing government will be reluctant to attract negative publicity from its base by evicting settlers, and will in turn attempt to delay the eviction or perhaps find a way to legalize the take-over. Fellow Israeli citizens must not give in to this emotional blackmail, and the authorities must evict these squatters without delay.”