The Palestinian Authority governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, was among 22 people arrested by Israeli security forces in a series of raids overnight Tuesday in the city’s eastern sector, Palestinian media reported.
Police said in a statement Wednesday that a senior Palestinian official and a further individual were detained on suspicion of violating a law that limits PA activity in Jerusalem, as well as fraud and forgery.
The Kan public broadcaster reported that the second individual detained was Ghaith’s lawyer.
Authorities have reportedly been investigating the governor following the PA’s arrest last October of a Palestinian-American man accused of involvement in selling a property in East Jerusalem to a Jewish buyer.
On October 20, 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,” and he was arrested again in November.
PA courts have previously sentenced Palestinians to death for selling land to Jews. Since 2005, however, the PA has not carried out any executions.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Ghaith, a resident of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood and a longtime Fatah activist, to the role of PA Jerusalem governor in late August.
In his role, Ghaith is responsible for overseeing PA activity in the neighborhoods within its jurisdiction on the edges and outside of Jerusalem.
Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally, almost entirely does not allow the PA to operate within Jerusalem.
Israel seldom arrests high-ranking PA officials. However, Israeli security forces have arrested Ghaith many times in the past several years, including on suspicion of incitement, his brother Hani said.
Wednesday’s arrests also took place against a backdrop of recent rising tensions over a section of the Temple Mount that has been closed by Israeli court order for over 15 years.
The Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy, was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 because the group managing the area had ties to Hamas, and it has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work there by the Waqf, the Islamic authority that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Israeli officials believe the work has led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area.
On Sunday, Israel briefly detained the head of the Waqf following the protests at the site. The cleric, Sheikh Abdelazeem Salhab, was appointed to head the Waqf by neighboring Jordan, which strongly protested the arrest.
On Tuesday, security officials warned that if the Temple Mount situation escalates, violence could spread from East Jerusalem to the West Bank, the Haaretz daily reported.