Israel Police Arrest 32 East Jerusalemites on Suspicion of Working With Palestinian Security Forces

Round-up is part of effort to find Palestinians who are preventing sale of properties to Jews; detainees suspected of ties to PA, in violation of rarely cited clause in Oslo Accords

File Photo: Israel border Police raid the home of a Palestinian family, July 22, 2008.
Muhammed Muheisen/AP

The Israel Police arrested 32 residents of East Jerusalem early Monday morning as part of a campaign against Israeli residents who are working on behalf of Palestinian Authority security forces, in violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The operation was carried out after police arrested Adnan Ghaith, the PA governor of Jerusalem, on Saturday night at his home in the Silwan neighborhood – also on suspicion of cooperating with the authority's security services.

The East Jerusalem residents, who all have blue Israeli ID cards, are suspected of criminal intent, recruitment and participation in Palestinian security forces' activities.

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While searching the homes of the suspects, police seized tens of thousands of shekels in cash and foreign currency, Palestinian police-issued credentials, uniforms, ammunition and other military equipment, photos and other documents.

According to one of the clauses in the Oslo Accords, residents of Israel are forbidden to cooperate with Palestinian security forces. The clause is rarely cited in criminal investigations: Indeed, until now, only one person has been convicted under it.

The recent wave of arrests, a result of an undercover police investigation, is part of a wider operation aimed at Palestinians who may be involved in preventing the sale of houses in East Jerusalem to Jews.

On Monday, the suspects from East Jerusalem were transferred to the central unit of the Jerusalem District Police, which intends to ask for their further remand in custody.

On Sunday night, the police extended Ghaith’s detention for five days, and in response dozens of Palestinians protested in, barricading Saladin Street near Jerusalem's Old City.

Ghaith was previously arrested for alleged involvement in the arrest of an East Jerusalemite wanted by the PA for selling a house to Jewish settlers. Ghaith was released by the Jerusalem District Court, which rejected the police’s request to extend his detention.

Ever since a public furor erupted two months ago following the sale of a large house in the Old City's Muslim Quarter to a Jewish buyer, Palestinian security forces have been searching for and pressuring Palestinian residents who may have sold property to Jewish Israelis.

In early November, Border Police and the Shin Bet security service raided the offices of the PA governor in the A-Ram neighborhood, north of Jerusalem, seizing documents and computers. According to workers in the office, the officers acted so violently that four of them required medical treatment.

Ghaith is also being investigated by Israeli security forces for possible involvement in the case of Issam Akel, a U.S. citizen and Palestinian national who was detained in Ramallah in October by the PA, for allegedly selling an apartment in the Old City to a Jewish buyer.

In the Knesset, right-wing lawmakers have attacked Israeli authorities for failing to free Akel, with MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) saying, “Why don’t you pick up the phone and call the responsible parties in the PA and tell them that either they return the guy in the next two hours, or buildings start to fall?” He added, “What would happen if he were a Jew from Tel Aviv?”