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Saudi cleric should apply for visa: Israel

Visa can be obtained from Amman, says Israeli Foreign Ministry official

Image Credit: Gulf News
Gulf News

Riyadh: Israel said on Tuesday that a Saudi cleric could apply for a visa from the consulate in Amman if he wants to visit occupied Jerusalem.

"Throughout the years many people from countries like Libya, Indonesia and other countries that don't have relations with Israel have visited [occupied] Jerusalem," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

"All these visits were naturally coordinated with Israeli authorities."

The Saudi cleric Shaikh Mohammad Al Areefi announced on Monday on his television show that he will visit occupied Jerusalem next week to bolster Muslim claims to the city.

If he goes ahead with his plan, it would be an unprecedented trip for a prominent Saudi. Occupied Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, but most Muslim countries — including Saudi Arabia —observe a strict boycott of Israel and ban travel there.

Al Areefi told his viewers on Sunday on the religious satellite channel Iqra that the next episode of his show would be about Muslim claims to occupied Jerusalem and Palestine. Al Areefi said he would visit the city next week, though he did not specify when.

He said he was not afraid of any "treachery from the Jews", as he had put his trust in God.

Al Areefi is viewed as a comparative moderate among Saudi Arabia's conservative clergy. He is currently visiting Jordan.

Community leaders held

Saudi authorities have arrested several Shiite community leaders in the Eastern Province for hosting Shiite ceremony in their homes, an activist said yesterday. A 30-year-old school teacher was detained on Monday in Al Khobar, where three other Shiites were arrested a week earlier for private ceremonies on the Shiite Ashura holiday last December, said Ebrahim Mugaiteeb of the Human Rights First Society.

The arrests follow more than a year of tensions in the Eastern Province over permits for new Shiite mosques in the region.

Authorities have shut down several makeshift Shiite mosques and refused a mosque permit for the 20,000-strong Al Khobar Shiite community, according to Mugaiteeb.

"They cannot have their own mosques, and they can't pray in a Sunni mosque," he told AFP. "They are not allowed to have prayers in the streets."