Israel arrests 32 East Jerusalem residents for serving in PA security forces

Police say suspects violated Oslo-era law banning Palestinian Authority from operating inside Israel; top Ramallah official detained for apparently similar reasons over weekend

The Palestinian ID card of an East Jerusalem resident who police said illegally worked for the PA security forces, seen on November 26, 2018. (Israel Police)
The Palestinian ID card of an East Jerusalem resident who police said illegally worked for the PA security forces, seen on November 26, 2018. (Israel Police)

Israeli police arrested 32 East Jerusalem residents overnight Sunday on suspicion that they had illegally enlisted in the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.

According to a police statement, the suspects were Israeli residents and some were receiving social benefits from the state while also serving in the PA’s armed forces.

The statement said the activities were illegal under the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement, a follow-up treaty to the Oslo Accords.

The arrests came at the end of a covert investigation into the Palestinian Authority’s operations inside Israel, the statement said.

During searches of the suspects’ homes, police said officers uncovered tens of thousands of shekels in cash, weapons, ammunition, uniforms and various PA security forces documents.

Police said the suspects were engaged in activities that “directly affect the personal safety of Israeli Arabs.”

The suspects were taken for questioning and were expected to be brought before a judge for a remand hearing later on Monday.

The arrest raid came a day after police arrested the Palestinian Authority governor of Jerusalem for the second time in as many months, apparently due to a PA investigation into an East Jerusalem land sale.

Adnan Ghaith was arrested in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood overnight Saturday as he left a relative’s wedding. Police gave few details on Ghaith’s arrest, saying only that he was suspected of money-related offenses.

Reports in Hebrew-language media said that Israeli authorities are investigating Ghaith after the PA arrested a man last month accused of selling property in East Jerusalem to a Jewish buyer.

Uniforms and money found at the home of East Jerusalem residents who police say illegally served in the PA security forces. (Israel Police)

Last month, Ghaith was detained for two days of questioning before being released, with the Shin Bet domestic security agency saying it was over “illegal activity by the (Palestinian Authority) in Jerusalem.”

Ghaith and Jihad Faqih, the Jerusalem director of the PA General Intelligence Services, were collared on suspicion they helped abduct a Palestinian-American resident of Jerusalem, who was then put in the PA’s custody in the West Bank, their lawyers told Reuters at the time.

Both Ghaith and Faqih denied the charges, their lawyers said.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally, almost entirely does not allow the PA to operate within Jerusalem.

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