Israeli forces have shut down a Palestinian research center in east Jerusalem al-Quds and nabbed its director, a prominent cartographer, over allegations of working for the Palestinian security apparatus.
The office of the Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department of the Arab Studies Society in east Jerusalem al-Quds was closed on Tuesday for six months, an Israeli police statement said.
Israeli officials accused the director of the research center, Khalil Tafakji, of cooperating with the Palestinian Authority to monitor the sale of land by Palestinians to Israeli Jews.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Tafakji's activities were “part of the Palestinian Authority's plan to undermine our sovereignty in Jerusalem and terrorize Arabs selling real estate to Jews in the city.”
"I'll continue to act assertively to prevent Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem,” he added.
Under the Palestinian law, sale of land to Israeli settlers is punishable by death.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat issued a statement, slamming the "illegitimate" closure and arrest as part of Israel's attempts to "erase any Palestinian presence in the city."
Tafakji has been mapping the Palestinian territories for decades and his research has been a major reference for international experts and the world press.
Since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in January, the Israeli regime, which sees in him a stronger supporter than former president Barack Obama, has stepped up its construction of settler units on occupied Palestinian lands.
A general view shows buildings under construction in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds on March 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Such construction constitutes a blatant violation of international law. The Geneva Conventions ban construction on occupied land. About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.Trump has also said in controversial remarks that he considers Jerusalem al-Quds as the future capital of an Israeli “state.” This is while Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state. They want Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of that state.
The US president has also vowed to fulfill a campaign pledge to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.