American National From East Jerusalem Arrested by Palestinian Authority for Selling House to Jews

Issam Akel was arrested in Ramallah and held for the past two weeks

File photo: A man is seen from a window as Israeli flags fly on top of a house in Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem, August 27, 2015.
AP

An East Jerusalemite has been held for two weeks by the Palestinian Authority under suspicion that he sold an apartment to Jews in Jerusalem's Old City.

Issam Akel, who is also an American citizen, was arrested in Ramallah earlier in October by the Palestinian security forces for suspected involvement in the sale of a house in the Old City's Muslim Quarter, near Herod's Gate.

Israel Police arrested several other Palestinian suspects for involvement in Akel's arrest, including the PA's Jerusalem governor, Adnan Ghaith, as well as Jihad Al-Faqeeh, chief of intelligence for the Palestinian Authority in the Jerusalem area. Both were released from detention last week.

In a discussion held in the Knesset's Interior Committee, right-wing MKs harshly criticized the police and the Defense Ministry for not releasing Akel from arrest.

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"Why don't you pick up the phone and call the responsible person in the PA and tell him that either the guy gets back within an hour or two or buildings start to fall? What if this was a Jew from Tel Aviv?" MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) said. According to Smotrich, Akel arrived at the police station before he left for Ramallah and said he feared for his life. Smotrich added that since Akel is an American citizen, American consular officials have visited him.

MK Yoav Kish (Likud), chairman of the committee, said: "The PA has an apparatus that hunts land sellers who operate in East Jerusalem. We have to root this out. We cannot allow activity that goes against our sovereignty in Jerusalem."

A police representative, who attended the discussion, said he was not familiar with Akel's police visit. "This is not a kidnapping incident. He went to Ramallah himself. Israel Police attempts to prevent PA activity in Jerusalem, including arrests and searches, and we also monitor incitement."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Joudeh family, one of two families entrusted with the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, published an unusual statement saying that it has decided to take away the church's key from Adeeb Joudeh after he sold his house to Jewish settlers.  

Adeeb Jawad, the custodian of the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Olivier Fitoussi

The Joudeh and Nuseibeh families were the two families, both Muslim, entrusted with the keys to the church in the 12th century, in an effort to halt the bloodshed between rival Christian groups. Adeeb Joudeh has served as the custodian of the church's keys for many years.

In September, Adeeb Joudeh sold his house, located near one of the entrances to the Temple Mount, to settlers. Thereafter, a slew of accusations were slung at Adeeb Joudeh and real-estate brokers involved in the sale. In the family's statement, it was said that the keys would be transferred to another family member until the issue was clarified.