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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Palestinian gets life sentence for selling Jerusalem Old City land to Jewish buyers

Issam Akel was convicted of 'attempting to cut off Palestinian land and sell it'

The struggle for the Old City of Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. AFP
The struggle for the Old City of Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. AFP

A Palestinian court sentenced a man from East Jerusalem to life in prison with hard labour for attempting to sell Arab property in Jerusalem’s Old City to Jewish buyers.

Issam Akel was convicted of "attempting to cut off Palestinian land and sell it to a foreign country," the court said.

The ruling underscored an increasingly visible battle in the city's eastern sector that emerged following US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital a year ago.

For a long time Israel has tried to tighten its grip on the contested area, while Palestinians try to push back and maintain their limited foothold in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, condemns those who sell Jerusalem land to Israeli groups or Jewish buyers, but it does not have many options to halt these sales.

It considers such sales to be traitorous and punishable by death, even though Mr Abbas has never enforced that law.

Israel arrested a Palestinian in October, accusing him of helping to plan and carry out the detention of Mr Akel in the West Bank city of Ramallah over his involvement in land sales to Jewish buyers. Israel has banned the PA from conducting political activity in Jerusalem.

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The conflicting claims to East Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel captured the area, home to the city's most sensitive religious sites, in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, claiming the entire city as its capital. But the annexation is not internationally recognised, and the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Mr Trump last year recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Although he said the declaration was not meant to determine the city's final borders, the move was interpreted by both sides as siding with Israel. The Palestinians severed ties with the White House in response.

Mr Abbas said on Monday that he would pre-emptively reject a peace plan the US says it is preparing.

"Jerusalem is not for sale. We will never accept that," he said.

Updated: January 1, 2019 04:49 PM

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