A late-night call on April 6 alerted CPTers to yet another seizure by Israeli settlers of a vacant three-story apartment building owned by a Palestinian man. The building stands about 300 yards from the CPT apartment on the road which Palestinian children have to cross to get to school from the Old City. The CPT school patrol passes that way every morning.
The apartment building had been empty for over three years since the owner moved out of the Israeli-controlled Old City into the Palestinian-controlled area of Hebron. Israeli settlers claimed to have purchased it legally, but they had to use a sledgehammer and crowbar to get in. Local residents insist there was no way the owner would have sold the property to settlers.
The incursion caused much speculation among Hebron residents. They worried that the building the settlers seized might be one more link joining the settlements in the Old City of Hebron to the much larger settlement of Kiryat Arba. Others argued that the incursion was a desperate move by Israeli settlers who fear that their days in Hebron are numbered.
On May 4, Israeli authorities investigating the settlers’ claim found it to be fraudulent and the Israeli High Court ordered the settlers to leave. The settlers refused to move out voluntarily, calling on Israeli youth to come help them defend the property.
The Israeli government mobilized 1000 soldiers and 700 police to evacuate the settlers. They surrounded the building on May 6, declaring the area a “closed military zone.” CPTers, unable to get to the site, watched from their rooftop as defiant settlers hurled missiles, glass bottles and flaming tires at the troops.
By the time the building was cleared, 19 soldiers and police had suffered injuries and 17 settlers were arrested.
Tight security measures following the eviction affected primarily Palestinian residents. Palestinian schools near the Old City were closed and Palestinians were not permitted to go out of the Old City to pray in the Ibrahimi Mosque. Many extra soldiers remained in Hebron in anticipation of possible renewed settler violence.