Israeli forces have evicted dozens of settlers from the disputed West Bank buildings and blocked access to the site, police said. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon accused the settlers of 'crudely' breaching the law.
The troops peacefully removed around 80 Jewish people from the property and then welded the doors shut, an AFP photographer on the scene said Friday.
The two Hebron buildings would remain shut until a court decides on who owns the property, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Although the Israelis claim that they had bought the homes legally, the settlers did not follow established procedure during their move, said Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
"Israel is a nation of law and we have no intention of compromise when the law is broken," the official said. "In the case of the houses in Hebron, the law was crudely breached. A series of legal actions need to be taken to enter the house, none of which were conducted. Therefore the invaders were evacuated."
Hebron has a small and heavily guarded community of Israeli settlers, and their attempts to enlarge their presence are met with hostility.
Only a day earlier, Israel was forced to deploy troops in order to protect the settlers from the local Palestinians, after the Jews' attempt to move in sparked violent clashes in the flashpoint city.
After the riot, settlers' spokesman Yishai Fleisher said his community did not coordinate with the army "for fear of leaks and efforts to try to stop it."
Seller in a 'safe house'
Selling property to Jews is a taboo among Palestinians and is illegal under Palestinian law. In several cases, sellers have been killed by Arab gunmen.
On Friday, Fleisher said that the Arab seller of the Hebron buildings had been moved to "a safe house" to avoid reprisals.
He added that the settlers would submit the necessary paperwork in the coming days, and that the defense ministry refused to examine their documentation before clearing the property
"There was a request made by the defense minister to get the Jews out of the house," Fleisher said.
Time to 'strengthen' the settlements
The incident stirred unrest in the right-wing coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which hold only a one-seat majority in the parliament. Up to three lawmakers said they would boycott the parliament votes until the settlers returned, according to the local media.
Minister of Tourism from Netanyahu's Likud party, Yariv Levin, condemned the eviction, saying that such a decision "naturally has implications on the stability of the coalition."
Zeev Elkin, another Likud lawmaker, called on Yaalon to overturn the eviction order.
"This is the time to fight terror and strengthen and support the settlements, and not to fight the settlers," he posted on Twitter.
Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. Many members of the international community consider the prolonged occupation to be illegitimate.
dj/bw (AP, AFP)