JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an order late Sunday allowing Jewish families to move into a contested house in a Palestinian neighborhood of Hebron, the West Bank city where an Israeli soldier was fatally shot by a Palestinian sniper hours earlier.
The controversial order, following the death of the solider in Hebron and the killing Friday of an unarmed air force sergeant who police say was lured to a West Bank village, represented the latest blow to nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks being brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The order issued Sunday night applies to the house known as Beit Hamachpela, which was purchased by members of Hebron’s Jewish community in 2012. The purchase was validated after a court hearing this year, but the families were waiting for a final approval from government authorities before moving in.
They will be the first Israeli citizens in the Palestinian part of the city’s ancient quarter. The house is just meters from the holy site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. The book of Genesis describes Abraham purchasing the site in order to bury his wife, Sarah, after her death.