Gov't. Backs Off Hebron House Expulsion

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HEBRON, Israel - The government decided against the forced expulsion of Jewish families living in Beit HaShalom in Hebron, which was to be carried out Wednesday, according to an order issued by the High Court.

Families who first moved into the building in March 2007 have presented legal evidence of the property's purchase, but objections by Arab residents have prevailed with the current government.

At the beginning of the week, the court gave the families 72 hours to move out of their homes, with the court assuming jurisdiction until the legality of the sale is settled.

But residents refused to obey the court order, vowing not to leave voluntarily. Five more families have moved in, including Shas Knesset member MK Nissim Ze'ev. And reinforcements are arriving every day.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak will meet with military and police officials to decide on a strategy to oust families from their homes, which may take place in the middle of the night to avoid media coverage.

The government's plan is stirring fears of a repeat of the bloody confrontation between thousands of police and the residents of Amona, a small community in Samaria, in February 2006, under then Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert.

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