Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ikrima Sabri has warned that Israel has resorted to new ways to control Palestinian properties in the city.
Sabri, an important religious authority in Jerusalem, said Israeli companies are offering attractive soft loans in exchange for people mortgaging their homes, real estate or land.
The Mufti described this method as “suspicious and unacceptable”, saying it is intended to grant these properties to “gangs of settlers.”
Sabri asked Jerusalemites not to deal with these settlement companies, and refrain from signing any papers without careful examination.
He explained that by taking risks and increasing debts, the loan seeker would fall prey to deception and lose his property.
Sabri's warnings came after settler organizations have recently succeeded in taking control of buildings in the city near al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Palestinian Authority, which claims east Jerusalem as its capital, and religious fatwas consider land sales to Israeli Jews to be treason.
But some Palestinians continue to sell their property after coming under financial pressure from Jews.
The PA now imposes stricter constraints on selling properties and lands, especially in areas known as Area C, which is controlled by Israel.
However, PA officials say it is largely powerless to prevent sales of land to Jews because they are carried out in secrecy and sometimes Israeli authorities wait for the land owner to die or travel to announce that they bought the property.
In addition, those deals are done in areas where the PA has no jurisdiction, and some land or property owners live and sell from abroad.