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Israel high court gives settlers 3 days to vacate disputed West Bank house

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] ruled Sunday that settlers in a disputed house in the West Bank [CIA backgrounder] city of Hebron have three days to evacuate or else face eviction. The four-story home, called the House of Peace (Beit HaShalom) [Hebron Jewish Community backgrounder; advocacy materials] by Jewish settlers, was originally occupied by a group of 150 in March 2007. The settlers had presented evidence [Haaretz report] to the Court which allegedly showed they had purchased the house from a Palestinian, Faez Rajabi, but Rajabi denied selling the building. The Court did not rule on who has legal ownership of the building, stressing that the issue will be decided in a district court. The decision gives the Israeli government control over the building until the ownership issue is resolved. Many settlers groups, including the Yesha Council [Ynet backgrounder] condemned the ruling, which many believe will lead to violence if enforced. Morris Abraham, the New York-based businessman who initially bought the property, has said he will sue the State of Israel [YNet report] if the settlers are evicted. AFP has more. Haaretz has local coverage.

Ownership and occupation of land in the West Bank have been ongoing points of contention between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israeli government policy on the area has drawn international criticism. Just last week, Switzerland's Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (FDFA) condemned Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as a violation of international humanitarian law [JURIST report] and called on Israel to stop the demolitions. In October, five Palestinians represented by Israeli rights group Yesh Din [advocacy website] filed suit [complaint, PDF, in Hebrew] against the State of Israel seeking $427,000 in damages for failing to protect Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank from trespassers and an illegal outpost. The suit, brought in the Magistrate Court in Jerusalem, alleged that the Migron [Binyamin backgrounder] community was illegally settled on the plaintiffs' land with the assistance of Israeli authorities, altering its topography and blocking the owners' access to the area. The Palestinian owners were the first to seek monetary damages from Israel in a land dispute.

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