Selling land to Israel or Israelis is a capital offense, a Palestinian Authority court in the Jerusalem area ruled Thursday. The verdict overturned a lower court's ruling that such a sale was a "minor crime."

According to the Ma'an news agency based in Bethlehem, Judge Ta'et At-Twil ruled that the act of selling or attempting to sell land to a foreign country was a criminal offense which could warrant the death penalty.

A Prosecution statement said that the court issued the ruling as a consolidation of a previous legal principle, as per instructions it received from PA Attorney General Ahmad Al-Mughni. The Prosecution added that the ruling was made in order to “protect the Palestinian national project to establish an independent Palestinian state.”

In April 2009, a three-member PA military court sentenced a Hevron Arab to death by hanging for the crime of selling land to Jews in Judea and Samaria, Ma'an reported at the time.

Dozens of PA Arabs have been executed without trial in the past for collaborating with Israel by selling land to Jews, but the court’s ruling last April was the first time the PA officially handed down a verdict of treason for the deed.

Seven Arabs were executed in 1996 for “collaborating,” and the PA later admitted that it was responsible for the murders. More executions took place in the following years, and one Arab, Mohammed Abu al-Hawa, was tortured and murdered in 2006 for allegedly selling an apartment building in Jerusalem to Jews.

While Jews are forbidden from buying land in the PA, PA leaders refuse to accept Israel's status as the state of the Jews. Israel does not forbid the buying of land by Arabs, and there have been persistent reports of oil-rich sheikhs who have been buying land in Israel for nationalistic reasons in the past few years.