A general view shows the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron, in the West Bank September 11, 2018. Picture taken September 11, 2018.
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday that its security forces have thwarted attempts by Palestinians to sell lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to Jewish buyers, and the PA’s Preventive Security Service said in a rare statement that it has arrested 44 Palestinians suspected of involvement in the alleged real estate transactions.
The statement is in the context of a stepped-up PA campaign to deter Palestinians from selling properties to Jews. PA law bars selling land to a “hostile state or any of its citizens.”
In recent weeks, Palestinian religious authorities have repeatedly warned Palestinians against engaging in such deals and said that anyone who violates the law would be accused of “high treason.” The warning came in the aftermath of a number of cases in which east Jerusalem residents either sold their houses to Jewish organizations or were suspected of acting as middlemen in the real estate transactions.
According to the statement, the alleged real estate transactions included 300 hectares of land and three houses in six West Bank districts, including Jerusalem. The transactions were foiled on the basis of “accurate intelligence and field work,” it added.
The purported transactions were supposed to take place in the areas of Ramallah, el-Bireh, Hebron, Salfit, Nablus and Kalkilya, the statement said, adding that 44 Palestinian suspects have been arrested.
The suspects have been referred to the PA prosecutor-general so they could face legal measures, the statement said. Three of the suspects, who were not identified, have been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor, it added, while the remaining suspects are currently standing trial.
The Preventive Security Service said that in accordance with instructions from the Palestinian political echelon Palestinians involved in the sale of properties to Jews will be dealt with firmly and in accordance with the law. “The sale of properties [to Jews] poses a dangerous threat to [Palestinian] national security,” it cautioned.
Osama Qawassmeh, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, said last month that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has issued “direct orders” to the Palestinian security forces to crack down on Palestinians suspected of involvement is selling properties to Jews.
The security force urged Palestinians to display caution with regards to real estate transactions and to inform about any suspicious deal of “transferring ownership over land to the occupation.”
One of the Palestinians who are being held on suspicion of involvement in the sale of a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish organization is Issam Akel, a Palestinian-American from east Jerusalem. Akel’s family has notified the US State Department of his arrest. The PA, however, has thus far refused to release him.
Akel, 53, holds an Israeli ID card leading to the Israel Police to also launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his arrest. As part of the investigation, the Israel Police briefly arrested the PA’s “governor” of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, on suspicion of involvement in the case.
Last month, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman called for the release of Akel. “The Palestinian Authority has been holding US citizen Issam Akel for two months,” Friedman pointed out on Twitter. “His suspected ‘crime?’ Selling land to a Jew. Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US and to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release.”
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