Palestinian Authority boasts it ‘thwarted’ major land sales to Jews in Jerusalem
Abbas’s troops said to arrest 44 on suspicion of attempting to deal away 740 acres in East Jerusalem and West Bank, with three sentenced to hard labor
Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent
The Palestinian Authority’s security forces announced Sunday that it had “foiled” the sale of roughly 3,000 dunams (741 acres) throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Jews.
The PASF statement, posted on its Facebook page, said a large-scale operation to prevent the land sales resulted in the arrests of 44 Palestinians, who had been attempting to sell property near the cities of East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Qalqiliya, and Salfit.
Three of the suspects have already been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, the statement said.
The Ynet news site reported that among the arrested was East Jerusalem resident Issam Akel.
The Jerusalem resident had been sought by the PA over his involvement in the sale of a home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City to Jews.
The PA government formed a committee to investigate the sale of the home in the Old City, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tweeted on October 9.
Palestinian law considers attempting to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews a punishable offense.
According to the law, possible punishments for trying to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews include different degrees of hard labor and execution.
However, the law requires that PA President Mahmoud Abbas approve any death sentence, and he has not signed off on any executions since 2006.
Last month, Israel twice detained Adnan Ghaith, the PA governor of Jerusalem, for his reported connection to Akel’s arrest.
The Sunday PASF statement did not specify whether the three sentenced to 15 years of hard labor were the same as the two men given an identical punishment last month.
Then, the PA High Judicial Council’s website announced the sentencing of “F.A.E. and A. Kh. M. from Kafr Thulth in the Qalqilya Governorate for the crime of leaking land to the enemy.”
Separately, in early November, the body of Ala’a Qirsh, one of six Palestinians who died in a major road accident in the Jordan Valley, was barred from being buried in a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem over allegations that he had sold property to Israeli Jews, an official in the Jerusalem Waqf told The Times of Israel.
The PASF statement called on Palestinians to “exercise caution” in handling their property to prevent the transfer of land “to the occupation.”
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.