Last updated: 5 April, 2012

Palestinians hold man over Hebron house sale

A Palestinian man suspected of mediating in the contested sale of a house in Hebron to Jewish settlers has been detained, Palestinian security sources told AFP on Thursday.

Israeli security forces on Wednesday evicted a group of settlers from a house in the West Bank city, a day after they were ordered to leave the property.

Six settler families had moved into the property a week ago, claiming they had legally purchased one floor of the building from its Palestinian owners.

Palestinian sources in Hebron said the property belonged to the Abu Rajab family, some of whom live on the first floor of the building, and that it was possible that a member of the family had sold the second floor of the house.

But the buyer was not settlers, rather a Palestinian man originally from the Gaza Strip, who is suspected of acting as a middle-man for Jewish groups involved in buying Palestinian assets, the Palestinian security sources said.

This go-between, who worked for Palestinian national security in Ramallah before retiring, was detained earlier this week by Palestinian security forces, and was being held in Ramallah, the sources said.

They added that the member of the Abu Rajab family believed to have sold the asset to the middle-man had “escaped to Israel.”

The Israeli defence ministry said following the eviction that it would continue to examine the legal aspects of the property deal.

The house is near the contested religious site known as the Cave of the Patriarchs (or the Machpelah Cave) to Jews and the Ibrahimi Mosque to Muslims.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, home to some 190,000 Palestinian residents, but also a core of around 600 Israeli hardcore settlers who live in the heart of the city protected by a large Israeli military presence.

The Old City has become a flashpoint for confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In 1994, a settler from the nearby Kiryat Arba settlement gunned down 29 Palestinians as they prayed at the contested Ibrahimi Mosque site.