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Hebron settlers headed for showdown with Israeli troops over house

Nov. 19, 2008 12:36 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 19, 2008 12:36 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli settlers are bracing for a showdown on Wednesday as the Israeli military prepares to carry out a court order to evacuate a settler-occupied house in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Settlers moved into the four-story building in early 2007, claiming they purchased the property from a Palestinian who denies the sale ever took place. Israeli authorities have not recognized the sale as legal.

Israel's highest court gave the settlers until noon on Wednesday to leave the house, at which time police and military forces would be authorized to remove them by force Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would execute the order, but only after attempting to persuade the settlers to leave peacefully.

A few hundred Israeli settlers, protected by thousands of soldiers, live in the heart of the of Hebron, a Palestinian city of 250,000 inhabitants.

1,000 Hebron-area settlers attended a meeting regarding the order on Tuesday night. Among the most militant of the West Bank's settlers, the group has vowed to resist the eviction.

"The state of Israel has become the enemy of the people and the land of Israel," said settler rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe at the meeting.

Immediately following the meeting, four new families moved into the building, which has been dubbed the "house of contention."

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