Representatives of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation on Saturday visited the Old City of Jerusalem, where they prayed at al-Aqsa Mosque.The Saudi officials were accompanied by the heads of the Islamic Wakf Department, which controls and manages the Islamic edifices on and around the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), including the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. A number of Palestinian worshipers and activists who protested against the visit of the Saudi delegation were briefly detained by the police, witnesses said. They said that guards from a private security firm who accompanied the Saudi officials responded by cursing the protesters.The Saudi delegation, including members of the kingdom’s national football team, arrived in Ramallah on Sunday via Jordan.On Tuesday, the Saudis are expected to play against the Palestinian national football team at the Faisal Husseini Stadium in the town of al-Ram, south of Ramallah, as part of the World Cup qualifiers.Shortly after its arrival in Ramallah, the Saudi delegation met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who told the guests: “You have honored Palestine with your presence.”Abbas is scheduled to visit Riyadh on Tuesday for talks with King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Palestinian envoy to Saudi Arabia, Bassam al-Agha, announced on Monday.Abbas’s planned visit to Saudi Arabia, as well as the Saudi-Palestinian football match, are seen as a sign of the thawing of tensions between Ramallah and Riyadh.Relations between the two sides have been tense since Saudi Arabia’s decision to participate in last June’s US-led economic conference in Bahrain, which was boycotted by the Palestinians. At the conference, the US administration unveiled the economic portion of its long-awaited plan for Mideast peace, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”PA officials accused the Arab states that participated in the conference of “stabbing” the Palestinians in the back.At several demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past two years, some Palestinians burned photos of the Saudi monarch and his crown prince, and accused them of being in collusion with the US administration and promoting “normalization” with Israel.Abbas praised the visit of the Saudi team to the West Bank, saying it “embodies the historical relationship between Palestine and Saudi Arabia.”“We are overjoyed you are on your land,” Abbas told the Saudi delegation. “It’s true that this is a sports event, but your arrival is an honor for the Palestinian people.”Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, hailed the visit as “historic” and thanked King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their “support” for the Palestinians.Rajoub dismissed claims that the Saudi delegation’s visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank was in the context of the Arabs’ “normalization” with Israel. “We won’t be party to any normalization process with the Israeli occupation,” Rajoub, a senior official with the ruling Fatah faction and former PA security chief, said. He said that the Palestinian boycott of Israeli athletes remains effective.The director-general of the (Jordanian-controlled) Wakf Department in Jerusalem, Azzam al-Khatib, and the director of al-Aqsa Mosque, Omar Kiswani, received the Saudi officials upon their arrival at the holy compound. Nasser Qos, a senior Fatah operative from east Jerusalem, was also present during the visit.The Wakf Department later issued a statement condemning the police for preventing Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Wakf Board of Directors who previously served as PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, from entering the mosque compound.Hours before the visit of the Saudis to the holy site, the Jerusalem Police detained Adnan Gheith, the PA “governor” of Jerusalem, and Shadi Mtour, the top Fatah representative in the city. Palestinian sources said the detention of the two men was apparently aimed at preventing them from accompanying the Saudi visitors on their tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.