Saudi Arabia changes rule barring Israeli pilgrims from visiting Makkah

Saudi Arabia has changed passport regulations which will restrict Israeli Muslims from visiting the Islamic religious holy site of pilgrimage, Makkah, the Haaretz newspaper reported. The change closes a loophole that earlier allowed Israelis passage to the two holiest sites, despite their country having no diplomatic relations with the Middle East monarch.

Saudi authorities announced they will no longer accept temporary passports Jordan had issued to Israeli Muslims to facilitate the trip, Haaretz said.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a text message that the government is “checking the situation.” Jordanian religious authorities in Jerusalem declined to comment.

The development took place despite covert ties between the two countries on their equal apprehensive attitude towards Iran. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently came under international pressure after dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying recently that the incident shouldn’t be allowed to destabilize the kingdom.

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According to Haaretz, the change also affects Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip who hold temporary Jordanian passports, though not those with Palestinian travel documents.

Salim Alashqar, a Palestinian Authority official responsible for the pilgrimage, said “thousands” of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians will be affected.

“We have gotten complaints from citizens who were refused visas for the hajj to enter Saudi Arabia with a temporary Jordanian passport,” Alashqar said. “We are waiting for an official response and clarification from the Saudis.”

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