Jerusalem Mapping Office Allowed to Reopen Days After It Was Shuttered for 'Tracking Palestinian Land Sales to Jews'

Computers and documents seized were returned to Dr. Khalil Tufakji, a former peace negotiator, who was detained and questioned. Police cited the office's work at monitoring settlement expansion on the day of the raid.

Palestinian geographer Khalil Tufakji (C) is detained as Israeli security forces carry out a police order to close his mapping office in East Jerusalem, March 14, 2017.

A Palestinian office that monitors settlement building and which was shut by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday reopened on Thursday with the approval of police, who also restored all the computers and documents that had been confiscated from its director, Dr. Khalil Tufakji.

Erdan's office and the police said in a statement on Tuesday they had ordered the office in Jerusalem's Beit Hanina quarter shut "on the basis of information received by Jerusalem police that the Palestinian Authority is operating an office in Jerusalem used as a mapping office" that monitors Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and follows "changes Israel makes, presenting them as "land grabs by the Israeli government."

They said further that the office provides Palestinian security forces in  Ramallah with the names of people who seek to sell property and homes in East Jerusalem and that "when there is a suspicion of a forgery or an attempt to sell a home or property to a Jew, an investigation is opened by Palestinian security."

In raiding the office on Tuesday, police arrested Tufakji, a well researcher about the settlements and the geographic aspects of the Israeli, Palestinian conflict. Tufakji has also participated in past peace negotiations and is well-known by Israeli peace negotiating teams. He also once operated out of the historic Orient House building in Jerusalem, which housed Palestinian institutions until its closure by Israel during the second intifada, in 2001.

The police also seized Tufakji's computers and files.

Tufakji said police also held him in custody for three hours before his release, but had questioned him for only half an hour.

He said the office has nothing to do with the Palestinian Authority and that he also does not operate inside Jerusalem, as part of Beit Hanina lies beyond the municipal boundaries, in the West Bank, and that is where the office is located.

Tufakji reported to the police at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem on Thursday and received all the com putters and documents that were seized and at noon he reopened the office. He told Haaretz that police said there was no reason for him not to resume the office's activities.