Israel has increased its pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) in an effort to secure the release of Issam Akel, an east Jerusalem resident with American citizenship, who was detained by the PA's General Intelligence Service (GIS) six weeks ago on suspicion of selling lands to Jews.
On Sunday, the Israel Police arrested Adnan Rit, the Governor of the Jerusalem District of the Palestinian Authority, for the third time this month on suspicion he was behind Akel's detention. Rit had been arrested at his home in east Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood, and his remand was extended until Thursday.
This move was one of a series of unusual steps the Israeli defense establishment has taken against senior officials in the PA as part of the attempts to free Akel.
Before Rit's arrest, GOC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai issued an order prohibiting the Palestinian Jerusalem district governor from having direct or indirect communications with several PA officials, including the head of the GIS, Majed Faraj—who is one of the heads of the Palestinian security coordination with Israel—as well as the head of the Tanzim, Fatah's militant faction.
In addition, Rit was barred from entering the West Bank, including Palestinian Authority territories.
According to Rit's arrest warrant, he "is involved in the detentions of Israeli citizens by the PA, which jeopardizes Israel and its citizens' security."
Israel has also issued a stay of exit order on Adnan Husseini, the PA's minister for Jerusalem affairs, who has been involved in the persecution of Arabs for selling lands to Jews in east Jerusalem.
Lt. Col. (res.) Baruch Yedid, who served in the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, argued that Israel should take harsher measures to ensure Akel's release.
"Israel should act against the Palestinian General Intelligence Service head, who followed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's orders to abduct (Akel). Other measures are not effective, since they do not influence the Palestinian intelligence head, nor the PA's minister for Jerusalem affairs Adnan Husseini, who strongly opposed Akel's release," he said.
Over the past few days, Fatah officials have warned Israel against raiding the detention facility where the 53-year-old Akel is held.
Akel's detention was even discussed in the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee last month, sparking ire among Knesset members over Israel's restraint in the face of the abduction of an Israeli citizen.
The MKs questioned whether Israel would have shown the same restraint if a Jew from Tel Aviv had been abducted instead of an Arab from east Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the police carried out an unusually large-scale series of arrests overnight Sunday—32 suspects from east Jerusalem who joined the ranks of the Palestinian Authority Security Services, in violation of Israeli law, were detained.
All the suspects were taken in for questioning by the police's Central Unit in the Jerusalem District and will be brought before a judge to extend their remand.
During a search of the suspects' homes, tens of thousands of shekels were seized along with training certificates from the Palestinian police, uniforms, military equipment, and various types of ammunition.