Jerusalem, April 4 – Israeli police officers evicted 15 Israeli families and singles from a house in the Palestinian city Hebron on Wednesday afternoon. The settlers say they purchased the building from its previous Arab owners but given the extremely delicate situation in the city Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted on removing the new residents.
“I will continue to strive for democracy and rule of law while ensuring the authority of the state over its citizens,” Barak said in a statement.
The intervention is highly controversial within the government, with some ministers opposing. However, Barak insists he will do what he can to prevent acts that could be seen as incitement by Palestinians.
Israel realizes that many of the settlements will have to be removed as part of a final-status agreement with the Palestinians but insists the issue be discussed in face-to-face negotiations.
The Palestinians walked out of direct talks two years ago, despite Israel agreeing to a 10-month settlement freeze.
Since then Israel has repeatedly called for a return to direct talks. As recently as yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the Palestinians to “change their minds.”