Palestinians under pressure to free US national: Report

By Qais Abu Samra

RAMALLAH (AA) – The Palestinian leadership is under "tremendous" U.S. pressure to release a dual U.S.-Palestinian national held by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for allegedly selling property to Israeli buyers, according to Palestine’s WAFA news agency.

Issam Akel was reportedly arrested by the Ramallah-based PA two months ago for selling property in occupied East Jerusalem to Jewish settlers.

Among Palestinians, selling Arab property to Israelis — whether in East Jerusalem or in the occupied West Bank — is considered a criminal offence.

“Tremendous pressure is being exerted on Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj and Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, for Akel’s release,” WAFA quoted “well-informed sources” as saying.

The news agency’s assertions come one day after U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman publicly demanded that the PA release the dual national.

“Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the U.S. and to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence,” Friedman said in a Wednesday tweet.

He added: “We demand his immediate release.”

According to WAFA, Israel’s recent arrest in Jerusalem of several members of the Fatah movement (which runs the PA) was intended to ratchet up pressure on the PA to free Akel.

“The [Israeli] occupation and its agents are waging a frenzied campaign to seize Palestinian property, especially in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” WAFA reported.

The news agency went on to quote the same “well-informed sources” as warning that selling Palestinian land in Jerusalem — especially to Israeli settlers — amounted to "treason".