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Israel limits Palestinian construction in Hebron

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January 28, 1997
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT)

From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel

HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- In the first major conflict since Israel withdrew most of its troops from Hebron, it has ordered a halt to the renovation of Palestinian homes near Jewish settlements, calling such construction a security risk.


Palestinians said Monday's order -- which applies to 12 of 35 Palestinians homes where reconstruction has been going on for months -- violates their redeployment deal with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Most of Hebron was turned over to Palestinian control earlier this month, but Israeli troops remain in 20 percent of the city in which 400 Jewish settlers live, along with more than 150,000 Palestinians.

Security concern cited

The order barring construction or renovation near the five compounds where Jewish settlers live gives settlers the opportunity to "expand their settlement in the Arab houses," Khaled Qawasmeh, head engineer of the renovation project said in protest.

Citing security concerns, Israeli Army Colonel Moshe Elad told CNN the houses in close proximity to the Jewish settlers would have been occupied by "ex-Palestinian prisoners." icon (197K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)


Hebron Mayor Mustafa Natsheh charged Israel's action was a "plot" prepared before the Hebron agreement was signed. "This is a very dangerous decision that will directly affect the peace process," he said.

On Monday, 11 construction workers briefly detained by Israeli police were told they must sign a commitment not to work on the designated sites.

For the moment Palestinians have decided against head-on defiance and will restrict themselves to restoring the 23 other rundown buildings not put off-limits.


Settlers renovating, too

Jewish settlers, anticipating they will be granted housing permits, have started renovating other nearby buildings once owned by Palestinians. "We are making preparations in order to show our readiness and (desire) to build," said settler spokesman Noam Arnon.

Despite the housing dispute, joint Palestinian-Israeli patrols have provided effective security and Hebron has been calm in the ten days since the handover.


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