Israeli forces detained the Palestinian Governor of occupied East Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, on Wednesday morning, February 27, after raiding his home in the village of Silwan just south of the Old City. Ghaith was transferred to the Russian compound police center in West Jerusalem.
Israeli forces have detained Ghaith several times in the past, the most recent of which was in last November. However, in December they also raided and searched his home and, while not arresting him, banned the PA official from entering the West Bank for six months and from traveling outside Palestine.
Wednesday morning’s seizure of Ghaith was part of an Israeli security crackdown on Palestinian activists, politicians and religious figures in occupied East Jerusalem due to increased tension at the Al-Aqsa Mosque over prayer rights for Muslims at the Bab al-Rahma area located within the mosque’s compound. Israel closed the gate to the Bab al-Rahma area in 2003 and had subsequently prevented Muslim worship there under a variety of pretexts. Last week Palestinians decided to defy the Israeli order and reopened the site for prayer. Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site for Islam and Muslims are supposed to be able to worship freely anywhere in its premises.
Wednesday night, the Israeli Magistrate Court ordered the release of Governor Ghaith after the Israeli Security Agency (“Shabak”) failed to submit an appeal against the release order. The court had given the Shabak until 6:00 pm local time to appeal the magistrate’s ruling. When the deadline passed with no appeal having been submitted, Ghaith was set free.