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Israel destroys synagogue near 2nd holiest site

Israeli police arrive to remove Jewish families from Hebron (Courtesy Hebron.com)

JERUSALEM – Israeli security forces today, acting under orders from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, amassed in Hebron – the world’s oldest Jewish city – where they destroyed a synagogue and forcibly evicted two Jewish families from a Jewish-owned market place located within the city’s Jewish community.

Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site in Judaism. The tomb is believed to be the resting place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.

More than 3,000 Israeli solders and police officers surrounded a key section of Hebron’s Jewish community today to expel the two Jewish families. The government maintains their residency in Hebron is illegal, since the families’ arrival wasn’t coordinated with the Israeli military. The families say they moved in after the military reneged on an agreement.

The families’ eviction was widely regarded in Israel as the opening salvo of more planned major evacuations of Jews living in the West Bank’s biblical Jewish communities.

Dozens of Jewish protesters, including many youths, hunkered down in Hebron overnight to protest the eviction. When police arrived today to remove the two Jewish families, the youth skirmished with the evacuation forces, reportedly throwing eggs and flour and refusing to leave the Hebron site. Fourteen policemen and 25 youth activists reportedly were lightly wounded.

Israeli police carry out removal of Jewish families from Hebron (Courtesy Hebron.com)

Eventually, the police forces removed the protesters and dragged the two Jewish families, including children, from the Hebron market.

The police also bulldozed a synagogue built in memory of Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old Hebron girl who was shot by a Palestinian sniper in 2001. The synagogue also doubled as a yeshiva for soldiers who were part of a first-response team for attempted terror attacks against Hebron. It was located within Hebron’s Jewish community but was bulldozed by the government because it was built without a permit.

Hebron spokesman David Wilder expressed “shock and outrage” Israel demolished the synagogue.

While construction in Arab sections of Hebron remains largely unregulated, the Israeli government strictly enforces construction regulations in the city’s Jewish neighborhood, an important biblical city which once served as the Jewish capital. Construction permits to build in Jewish Hebron are rarely issued.

Today’s uproar surrounded the move of two Jewish families to Hebron’s ancient marketplace. The structure, now converted to small, two-story apartments, was built in 1929 after Arab riots temporarily forced Jews from Hebron – the first time the city was without a Jewish presence in over 2,500 years. For more than 30 years, a sign was posted on the market boasting in Arabic that the structure was built on stolen Jewish property.

Arab merchants illegally set up shop at the market but were asked by the Israel Defense Forces to leave after a series of clashes broke out in the mid-1990s. Even though the market was stolen by the Arabs, Hebron’s Jewish community purchased the market from its original Arab occupants in 2001.

In January 2006, Jewish families took up occupancy to strengthen Jewish ties to the area following the murder of an infant by a Palestinian sniper, yards away from the market.

Israeli police remove Jewish families from Hebron (Courtesy Hebron.com)

The market, integrated within the Hebron Jewish community, is adjacent to several Jewish apartments and Jewish municipal buildings. It is not located in an Arab neighborhood. It doesn’t require any additional protection from IDF soldiers already patrolling the area.

Despite the original property owners’ recent signing over of the market to Hebron’s Jewish community, as well as Israel’s Supreme Court ruling that the structure was Jewish-owned, the government considers the occupancy of the marketplace illegal, saying families living inside did not negotiate their arrival with the IDF.

Following a standoff with the army last year, the Jews who had moved into the market decided to leave, reportedly after receiving promises from military officials they could return a few months later, after the court systems – which deemed the property Jewish – worked with the IDF to verify the legality of the Jewish residence.

But Israel’s attorney general overturned the Supreme Court decision and declared the residents cannot move in.

Still, two Jewish families recently moved back in, and Olmert’s government immediately ordered that they be evacuated.

Yesterday, dozens of Israeli soldiers from an elite unit who were called up to assist in the evacuation refused their orders in the most wide-scale military refusal since Israel’s unilateral retreat from Gaza two years ago.12 soldiers received month-long prison sentences and will not be allowed to complete their army duty.

Olmert’s decision to single out for evacuation two Jewish families living in Jewish sections of Hebron has been called into question by religious leaders here.

While Jewish construction projects deemed illegal in Jewish cities in the West Bank are regularly bulldozed or evacuated by the government, Olmert’s office has taken no action against hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in illegal outposts in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

WND previously exposed the Israeli government has allowed Palestinians and the United Nations to build illegally on hundreds of acres of Jewish-owned lands in Jerusalem purchased by the Jewish National Fund, a U.S.-based Jewish organization, using Jewish donors funds solicited for the purpose of Jewish settlement. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live on the Jewish-owned Jerusalem land, which was recently isolated from Jewish sections of Jerusalem by Israel’s security barrier.

WND also previously reported the city of Jerusalem, under orders from Olmert, deleted files documenting hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern sections of Jerusalem housing tens of thousands of Palestinians, according to a report by the Jerusalem Forum, which promotes Jewish construction in the city.

Aryeh King, chairman of the Jerusalem Forum, said Jerusalem municipal workers told him they were instructed by Olmert’s office to ignore illegal Palestinian construction in Jerusalem.

“Ehud Olmert gave the order not to deal with the problem and not to put Israeli security forces to the duty of taking down the illegal Arab complexes,” said King. “Senior municipal workers told me Olmert said not to bother with the illegal Arab homes because eventually eastern Jerusalem would be given to the Palestinian Authority.”

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