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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Israel arrests Palestinian officials over alleged abduction

Two men are suspected of trying to kidnap a Palestinian who had sold property to Jewish buyers

Jerusalem's Old City and the Abbey of the Dormition as the sun sets during a sand haze on October 18, 2018. AFP
Jerusalem's Old City and the Abbey of the Dormition as the sun sets during a sand haze on October 18, 2018. AFP

Israeli security forces have arrested the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem and the head of Palestinian intelligence in the city over suspicions they were involved in the abduction of a Palestinian who sold property to Jewish buyers, their lawyers said on Sunday.

Adnan Ghaith, Palestinian Authority official in charge of the Jerusalem file, was arrested on Saturday night, according to his brother and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

Israeli security forces detained Mr Ghaith as he left a relative’s wedding in Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, Hani Ghaith told The Times of Israel.

Israeli authorities also arrested the head of the Palestinian Intelligence Force’s Jerusalem office, Col Jihad Faqeeh.

Col Faqeeh was detained on Saturday at a military checkpoint near Qatannah, north-west of Jerusalem, as he headed to work in Ramallah.

The pair are suspected of aiding the abduction of a Palestinian-US citizen and resident of Jerusalem two weeks ago. He is now being held in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority and is accused of selling a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish organisation. The Old City, which holds some of the sites most holy to Muslims and Jews, lies in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after its capture in the 1967 war and regards the entire city as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

A spokesperson for Israel’s police said: “Two people were arrested and there is an ongoing investigation taking place.” He said that the pair would be remanded until Tuesday.

The sale of Palestinian property in the city, revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews, to pro-Israeli figures is considered an act of high treason in Palestinian society.

Palestinian religious authorities issued a religious decree banning the sale of Palestinian property to Israelis in April. The Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, said Palestinians were banned "from giving up, or selling Jerusalem and the land of Palestine to the enemy," a reference to Israel. He said it was forbidden for a Palestinian to take money for his or her property from Israelis because it would assist in the "eviction" of Muslims from their Jerusalem homes over time.

Since Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, several Palestinians have been killed by other Palestinians after being suspected of selling property in the contested city to Israelis.

“The arrest of Geith and Faqeeh is a new crime against the Palestinian people,” the PA government said. “It’s also a crime against the Palestinian leadership and our eternal capital, the occupied Arab city of Jerusalem.”

The arrest showed Israel was violating its commitments towards Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, according to Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Saeb Erekat.

“This is a new step taken by the Israeli Occupation against the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem,” Mr Erekat said. “Israel is further violating its own commitments and obligations regarding Palestinian institutions in the city.

"The threats and detentions against Palestinian political and community leaders, including the abduction of Governor Ghaith, should only be taken as part of Israel’s plan to eliminate any foundations for a political solution based on two-states on the 1967 border.”

Israeli moves against the Palestinians have accelerated following President Donald Trump’s decision in May to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. These include “forcible transfer of civilian population, home demolitions, colonial-settlement expansion and persecution of Palestinian civil society and political leaders”, Mr Erekat said.

A US embassy spokesperson said: "We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been detained by the Palestinian Authority. When a US citizen is incarcerated or detained overseas, the Department of State works to provide all appropriate consular assistance."

The alleged detention of the US citizen could worsen relations between Washington and Ramallah as ties remain cut off after the American embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, President Donald Trump's cutting of aid to the United Nations refugee agency and the cancelling of funds for East Jerusalem hospitals that serve sick Palestinians.

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