Israel evicts settlers from disputed West Bank homes

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Hebron (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Israeli security forces evicted dozens of Jewish settlers from two homes in the heart of the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday, a day after they had moved in.

Dozens of settlers left the house on Friday morning, carrying their possessions and accompanied by Israeli border police, an AFP photographer on the scene said.

Police later welded the doors of the homes shut, the photographer said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed 80 people had been removed from the homes, with the evacuation occurring without incident.

The buildings stand near a religious site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque in the heart of the flashpoint southern West Bank city.

The families had moved in on Thursday after buying the homes from Palestinian families, the settlers said.

Shlomo Levinger, a settler in one of the buildings, told AFP the properties were vacant when they moved in.

However, the move had not been coordinated with the Israeli security forces ahead of time.

In Hebron, where 500 Jewish settlers live protected by Israeli forces in a city of around 200,000 Palestinians, the expansion of the Jewish enclave is a fiercely contested matter.

Under Palestinian law, it is illegal to sell homes to Israelis in the West Bank but a very small number still do so.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon would have to approve the settlers' move, which would in effect expand the boundaries of the Jewish area in Hebron.

Three members of parliament from ruling parties announced on Friday they would not vote with the government again on any matters until the settlers were returned to the homes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has a majority of just one in Israel's Knesset, or parliament.

Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Israel seized in 1967, have been declared illegal by the international community.