An Israeli border police officer detains a Palestinian protester during a demonstration in east Jerusalem on December 16.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Israeli authorities have arrested two senior PA officials, drawing strong condemnations from the PA and the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank.
The two, Adnan Geith, PA “governor” of Jerusalem, and Col. Jihad Fakih, commander of the Jerusalem area in the PA’s General Intelligence Service, were arrested separately on Saturday.
Geith was arrested by the Jerusalem Police in Beit Hanina, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Fakih, a resident of the West Bank, was arrested by the IDF near the village of Qatanah, south of Ramallah. The two are being held at the Jerusalem Police Headquarters in the Russian Compound.
A spokesman for the Israel Police confirmed that the two men had been arrested and were currently being interrogated, without providing further details.
Geith, a resident of east Jerusalem who holds an Israeli ID card, was due to appear before the Ofer military court near Ramallah.
His lawyer, Mohammed Mahmoud said his client was suspected of “committing an offence in the West Bank,” but did not elaborate. However, Geith later appeared before a Jerusalem Magistrates Court judge, who ordered him remanded into custody until Tuesday. Mahmoud told The Jerusalem Post that his client was suspected of “making threats,” but did not provide additional details.
Geith, a senior Fatah activist, was appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas as “governor” of Jerusalem in last August. In recent weeks, Geith played a major role in Palestinian protests against the Israeli decision to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Ma’aleh Adumim. Palestinian sources believe the two senior officials were arrested because of their activities in east Jerusalem, particularly with regards to Palestinian efforts to prevent the sale of Arab-owned houses to Jewish organizations.
The Law for the Implementation of the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area – Restriction on Activity – 1994 bans the PA from carrying out any type of activities within the area of Israel, including in east Jerusalem. The purpose of this law is to ensure compliance by the PA concerning the restriction of their activity, and to prevent political, governmental or similar activities within that area.
Last Friday, the Post revealed that PA security forces arrested a Palestinian-American citizen on suspicion of involvement in the sale of a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish organization. A US official expressed concern over the arrest of the man and said the State Department was following up on the case with the PA. On Sunday, it was not clear whether the two senior officials, Geith and Fakih, were connected to the arrest of the Palestinian-American.
In recent weeks, the PA and the ruling Fatah faction have been investigating the sale of another Old City house to the Jewish organization, Ateret Cohanim. The Joudeh family, who owned the property, has denied selling the house to Ateret Cohanim. Documents presented by the family show that the house was originally sold to an Arab businessman from east Jerusalem last August.
PA and Fatah officials have described the real estate transaction as an act of “high treason.” Palestinian religious authorities in east Jerusalem reaffirmed a fatwa (religious decree) banning Palestinians from selling property to Israelis. The PA government has formed a commission of inquiry in order to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sale of the house, which is located in the Muslim Quarter.
“The arrest of Geith and Fakih is a new crime against the Palestinian people,” the PA government said in a statement. “It’s also a crime against the Palestinian leadership and our eternal capital, the occupied Arab city of Jerusalem.”
Yusef al-Mahmoud, spokesman for the PA government, accused Israel of seeking to “isolate Jerusalem from its natural surrounding” by arresting the two officials.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces in the West Bank, said he believed the arrest of the two officials was linked to their effort in preventing the sale of land in Jerusalem to Israelis.
Adnan Husseini, former PA “governor” of Jerusalem, also lashed out at Israel for arresting the two senior officials. He claimed that Israel was trying to “exert pressure on Palestinian officials after the success of the Palestinian peaceful resistance in thwarting the occupation’s schemes in Jerusalem.”
Last week, Jerusalem Police detained three east Jerusalem activists on suspicion of threatening Palestinians involved in real estate transactions with Israelis. The three – Abdullah Alqam, Kamal Abu Qweider and Fadi Mtour – were later released on bail.