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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Land sales to Israeli settlers likely motive in Palestinian murder

The man accused of selling West Bank plots of land was shot dead in Arab Israeli town of Jaljulia on Friday

An Israeli flag flies on a hill outside the Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem and overlooking the Jordan Valley, 28 November 2018. EPA
An Israeli flag flies on a hill outside the Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem and overlooking the Jordan Valley, 28 November 2018. EPA

A Palestinian man shot dead in an Arab Israeli town on Friday had reportedly played a role in selling West Bank land to Jewish buyers.

Ahmed Salama, originally a resident of the West Bank city of Qalqilya, was shot and killed near his home in the central Israeli town of Jaljulya.

A Palestinian Authority source told The National they were unaware of the 58-year-old’s involvement in land sales.

But Israeli media reports cited Palestinian sources as saying that he had avoided entering Area A of the West Bank, the section of the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, for fear of repercussions because of the suspicions around his role in selling West Bank property to Israeli settlers.

Selling Palestinian land to Israelis is considered a betrayal in the Palestinian territories. Since Israel took control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, several Palestinians have been killed by other Palestinians on suspicion of selling property in the contested areas.

Selling land to Israelis is punishable by death under the Palestinian Authority’s penal code but President Mahmoud Abbas has never signed off on such a punishment.

In April, Palestinian religious authorities issued a decree banning the sale of Palestinian property to Israelis. 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.

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He had denied any role in selling Palestinian land to Israeli settlers.

His death comes as the issue of land sales rises on the agenda of both sides of the decades-long conflict.

Israel last month arrested the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem over his alleged involvement in a plot to kidnap a Palestinian-American resident of the city accused of selling property there to Jewish buyers.

Israeli authorities accused him of a role in the kidnap on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli law restricts residents of East Jerusalem from cooperating with the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has detained Isaam Akel for weeks on suspicion of selling off Palestinian properties. The US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a far-right supporter of Israel’s settlement enterprise that much of the international community deems to be illegal under international law, has called for his release.

The fact that Mr Salama’s murder took place inside Israel’s borders raises the prospect that the Palestinian Authority or elements linked to the body may be willing to act inside Israel proper and not just occupied territory moving forward.

Updated: December 9, 2018 04:05 PM

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