Riyadh detains Saudi national for helping Israeli journalist into Mecca
The illegal entry of the Israeli journalist into Mecca occurred before Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej requested Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca for Muslim pilgrims
By News Desk - July 22 2022

(Photo credit: Daily Sabah)

Saudi authorities have detained a Saudi national on suspicion of helping Israeli journalist Gil Tamari enter the holy city of Mecca.

Local police released a statement on 15 July, claiming that a Saudi citizen was complicit in helping a non-Muslim journalist carrying a US passport, enter the holy city.

Visitors to the kingdom have to observe social and religious rules, “especially in relation to the two holy mosques and holy sites,” a police statement said.

Any violations are a crime and perpetrators will be punished in accordance with the law, the statement also said.

On 18 July, Israel’s Channel 13 broadcast the report by Tamari, as he filmed himself driving around Mecca and pointing out significant Islamic landmarks.

Tamari drove directly through the gate of Mecca, which marks the entrance to the city and the point at which non-Muslims are prohibited from entering.

Channel 13 later issued an apology but stood by their report even after an anger reaction from Riyadh and some criticism from Tel Aviv.

“We apologize if anyone was offended. To clarify, journalistic curiosity is the very soul of the journalist profession. The principles of journalism are rooted in reaching any location and documenting events firsthand,” Channel 13 remarked.

Tamari posted an apology on Twitter, saying that the network had no intention of offending Muslims.

Tamari’s entry into Mecca occurred before Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej requested that Saudi Arabia allow entry to direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca for Muslim pilgrims, which was later approved during President Biden’s visit to the region.

Frej previously said Israel has been working on ‘under-the-counter’ contracts between the two nations, agreements that are based on geopolitical interests and shared concerns in relation to Iran.

“I want to see the day when I can depart from Ben-Gurion [airport] to Jeddah to fulfill my religious obligation” of pilgrimage to Mecca, said Frej, a member of Israel’s Muslim minority.

Despite under-the-table business and security contracts between Tel Aviv and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has so far not signed the Abraham Accords.

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