Saudi Arabia takes action after Israeli reporter sneaks into Makkah during Hajj


A Saudi who allegedly helped a non-Muslim enter the holy city of Makkah has been arrested, police in the kingdom said on Friday, after online backlash against an Israeli journalist. The journalist, Gil Tamary of Israel’s Channel 13, on Monday posted to Twitter video of himself sneaking into Makkah, Islam’s holiest city, in defiance of a ban on non-Muslims.
Makkah regional police have “referred a citizen” to prosecutors for alleged complicity in “transferring and facilitating the entry of a (non-Muslim) journalist”, a police spokesperson said in comments reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.
SPA did not name the journalist but said he is an American citizen, whose case has also been referred to prosecutors “to take the necessary procedures against him in accordance with the applied laws”.
The spokesperson for the Makkah Police stressed that all those coming to the kingdom must respect the laws and abide by their requirements, especially with regard to the Two Holy Mosques and holy sites, and that any violation of this kind is considered a crime that will not be tolerated and penalties will be applied to its perpetrators based on the relevant regulations.
Despite growing behind-the-scenes business and security contacts, Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and did not join the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords that saw the Jewish state establish ties with two of the kingdom’s neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
In his roughly 10-minute clip, Tamary visits Mount Arafat, where robed Muslim pilgrims gather to pray during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage each year.
He makes clear he knows that what he’s doing is outlawed but says he wanted to showcase “a place that is so important to our Muslim brothers and sisters”.
Tamary’s justification, and subsequent apology, did little to quiet angry Saudi social media responses.
The controversy followed US President Joe Biden’s visit to both Israel and Saudi Arabia last week.