Jews moved into a house in the center of the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday. The building, known as the al-Alami family house, was at the center of an affair in which the Palestinian Authority convicted an East Jerusalem resident, Issam Aqel, of selling land to Jews. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. Aqel, who is also an American citizen, was released shortly after, following American pressure.
The family had earlier transferred ownership rights to Aqel, who sold it to activists associated with Ateret Cohanim, a non-profit group that buys houses for Jews in the Old City and surrounding areas. The people who moved into the house decided to name the building after Ari Fuld, a Gush Etzion resident who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in an attack last September.
Three months ago, Aqel was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces while he was visiting Ramallah. After a snap trial he was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor. In response, Israel arrested the Palestinian Authority’s governor of the Jerusalem district, Adnan Ghaith, as well as Fatah activists and senior Palestinian officials in East Jerusalem. In addition, the police raided PA offices in al-Ram, just north of Jerusalem.
At the same time, the United States exerted pressure on the Palestinians to release Aqel, 55. He was released after two months and apparently left for the United States shortly thereafter.
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Aqel’s arrest was meant to reduce criticism of senior Palestinian officials, who were involved in the sale of another house in the Muslin quarter to settlers, said a number of Palestinian sources in Jerusalem.
MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) visited the site and said “the house was purchased by Jews and will house Jewish residents, despite efforts by the Palestinian Authority, which tortured Aqel and manufactured forged documents showing ownership of the house, while imposing terror within sovereign Israeli territory, at the heart of our eternal capital Jerusalem.”
“Happily another house in the Old City was redeemed,” said Yair Gabbay, the attorney who represents Ateret Cohanim. “The racist Palestinian Authority, which uses terror against Arabs who dare sell a house to Jews, suffered another defeat today.”
“Settler organizations are intensifying their actions to take over houses inside and around the Old City” says Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at the Ir Amim nonprofit. “As of today, Palestinians have no recourse in addressing this assault by settlers, who enter the heart of these neighborhoods, and this is in contrast to the determination and resourcefulness East Jerusalem residents exhibit in their non-violent protest on Temple Mount, where they manage to challenge Israel.”