Netanyahu’s call to settle Hebron house not official directive, state says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was offering a gesture of support, not an official directive, with his call to allow settlers to move into a contested home in Hebron, the state told the Supreme Court.

No decision has been made on when Jews can move into the building, known as the Machpela house, the state said in response to a petition filed Monday night by a group of Palestinians seeking to keep Jewish settlers from moving into the house located near the Cave of the Patriarchs, also known as the Machpela.

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The petition was filed in the wake of Netanyahu’s statement made in response to the fatal shooting of an Israeli soldier in Hebron by a Palestinian sniper.

Sgt. Gal Gabriel Kobi, 20, was shot in the neck Sunday evening while on regular guard duty near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

In his statement, Netanyahu said that “those who try to uproot us from the City of the Patriarchs will achieve the opposite. We will continue to fight terrorism and strike at terrorists on the one hand and strengthen settlement with the other.”

A West Bank military court ruled in April that Jewish settlers had legally purchased the home. The house must still be registered in the Land Registry, which could take months or years, according to Haaretz.

On Tuesday, a group of Jewish activists reportedly set up a sukkah outside the building> News media outlets including Fox and Bloomberg called it a hut and said the Jews were staking a claim of ownership.