Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested a delay in the eviction of Jewish settlers who moved into an Arab-owned home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Netanyahu on Monday evening asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the delay until the several dozen settlers have an opportunity to prove in court their ownership of the house, the Defense Ministry said. Under an eviction order issued earlier in the day by the Israel Defense Forces, the settlers must leave by 3 p.m. Tuesday or they will be evacuated by the army.
The settlers say they bought the house and have the papers to prove it. Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily told Army Radio on Tuesday that the sale papers are forged and that the person who sold the house to the Jewish settlers is not the owner.
The eviction order issued by the IDF's Civil Administration says that the settlers' presence in the home violates public order. The residents of the home, which includes families with young children, also did not request nor receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz of the Likud Party visited what is being called the Machpelah house Tuesday morning to express his support for the building's residents. The Cave of the Patriarchs is known as the Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebrew.
"We are not making any preparations to evacuate and have no intention of leaving," Shlomo Levinger, a resident of the house, told Ynet. "We plan to hold the Passover seder here."
A special ministerial meeting to deal with the issue is scheduled for late afternoon Tuesday, after the 3 p.m. deadline.