Saudi man arrested over Israeli Jewish journalist’s Makkah visit

Riyadh, July 22 (EFE).- A local guide who helped an Israeli Jewish journalist enter Islam’s holiest site in Makkah, breaching a ban on non-Muslim visits, has been arrested, Saudi police said on Friday.

The detention comes after Israel’s Channel 13 News aired a 10-minute report earlier this week, showing journalist Gil Tamary driving past the Grand Mosque that houses the cube-shaped Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Islam.

Tamari became the first known Israeli reporter to tour the holy city and document the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj, Channel 13 said on Twitter.

The journalist also climbed the Mount of Mercy that oversees the plain of Arafat, thronged by Muslim pilgrims in their traditional white robes for the annual pilgrimage.

He was seen accompanied by a person who appeared to be a local guide. His face is blurred in the film to hide his identification.

In the video, Tamari lowers his voice while speaking to the camera in Hebrew and switching to English in between.

A Makkah police statement said they referred the suspect to the prosecution because he “was complicit in transferring and facilitating the entry of a (non-Muslim) journalist…to the holy city.”

The suspect helped the journalist, who holds US nationality, pass through an only-Muslims route “in an explicit violation of the laws that prohibit entry to Makkah for non-Muslims.”

“He was apprehended and legal action taken against him,” the police said in the statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The statement urged all visitors to the kingdom to respect and abide by the regulations, “especially with regard to the Holy Mosques and the sacred sites.”

“Any violation of this kind is considered a crime that will not be tolerated, and suitable penalties will be applied to perpetrators according to the relevant regulations.”

The Channel 13 report sparked an online backlash, prompting the journalist to tweet his apology.

Israel’s regional cooperation minister Esawi Freij, a Muslim, criticized the reporter for his “irresponsible and damaging” report aired “just for the sake of ratings.”

“I’m sorry (but) it was a stupid thing to do and take pride in,” the minister said.

Freij said the report undermined the US-encouraged efforts to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia diplomatic ties.

Tamari was in Jeddah to cover the visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia. EFE


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