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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Arab man murdered over Jerusalem home sale

Moadim l'Simcha.

A 'Palestinian' who sold a home in the 'East Jerusalem' neighborhood of a-Tur to Jews was found murdered today in Jericho.

The body of an Arab resident of Jerusalem who had been accused of selling his apartment to Jews was found on Thursday morning in Jericho.

Fatah gunmen belonging to the group's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for the murder. [Fatah is Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen's organization. CiJ]

The victim was identified as Muhammed Abu al-Hawa, a 42-year-old father of eight from the a-Tur neighborhood on the Mount of Olives. Palestinian Authority security officials said he had been hit by seven bullets in the head and chest. They added that the man had also been tortured before his car was set on fire.

PA policemen discovered Abu al-Hawa's torched body early Thursday morning in one of Jericho's neighborhoods. They later handed the body over to the Israeli police, who delivered it to the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for an autopsy.

The man's relatives said he was last seen on Wednesday night, hours before the murder. It was unclear whether Abu al-Hawa arrived willingly to Jericho or had been kidnapped from Jerusalem. His family was informed early Thursday morning that the body had been delivered to the police station in Ma'aleh Adumim. Several members of the Abu al- Hawa clan were questioned in connection with the murder.

The Abu al-Hawa clan is one of the biggest and oldest families whose members have been living on the Mount of Olives for many generations.

The victim's family was one of two families who recently sold three strategically located apartments overlooking the Temple Mount and the Old City.

The apartments were purchased through Elad, a nonprofit organization that has been buying homes in east Jerusalem for Jewish families and companies. Elad was also responsible for settling scores of Jewish families in the City of David in Silwan, a few hundred meters away from the Western Wall.

The purchase of the three apartments in a-Tur drew fierce protests from Arab residents in the neighborhood. Over the past few weeks, residents have clashed repeatedly with the police and members of a private security firm hired to guard the apartments. It was the first time that Jews had moved in to homes in a-Tur.

Immediately after the deal became public, some members of the Abu al-Hawa clan were either kidnapped or summoned by PA security forces to Ramallah and Jericho for questioning. Earlier this month, dozens of protesters torched a restaurant owned by a member of the clan in the neighborhood.

In an attempt to "clear" their name, the family published several advertisements in Arab newspapers denying that any of its members had sold property to Jews. The family, however, revealed that at least one of the apartments was sold to an Arab resident of Jerusalem, who apparently sold the property to a Jordanian company called Loyal Investment.

The victim's brother, Mahmoud, claimed that Jews who visited him several weeks ago offered him $300,000 in cash for his apartment. He said he immediately rejected the offer, but was then shown a contract showing that the apartment had already been sold. He said the contract carried his mother's forged signature.

The apartments, which are part of a four-story building, are located near the Seven Arches Hotel, which was previously known as the Intercontinental Hotel. [The Intercontinental Hotel was built on the Mount of Olives during the period when it was occupied by Jordan. The pathway leading up to the hotel was paved with Jewish gravestones from the Mount of Olives' cemetery. CiJ]

Relatives of the victim said on Thursday that it was not clear if he was aware that his\apartment would be sold to Jews. "He could have been an innocent victim," said Ahmed Abu al-Hawa, a taxi driver who lives near the victim's home. "I believe that those who sold the house to Jews are not in the country."


In 1995, the Palestinian Legislative council voted unanimously in favor of the death sentence for land brokers who sell lands to Jews.

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