Saudi who helped Israeli journalist enter Mecca arrested

The Saudi Public Prosecution is working to take necessary procedures against the Israeli journalist as well.

 Saudi police officer stands guard as pilgrims arrive to perform their final Tawaf in the Grand Mosque, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, July 20, 2021. (photo credit: SAUDI MINISTRY OF MEDIA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Saudi police officer stands guard as pilgrims arrive to perform their final Tawaf in the Grand Mosque, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, July 20, 2021.
(photo credit: SAUDI MINISTRY OF MEDIA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

A Saudi citizen who drove Israeli journalist Gil Tamary into Mecca recently has been arrested, and legal measures are being taken against him, Mecca police announced on Friday, according to Saudi state media.

The report referred to Tamari as a “non-Muslim journalist holding US citizenship.”

Police added that the case has also been referred to the Public Prosecution in order to take “necessary procedures against him.”

Mecca 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.”

How did an Israeli journalist get into Mecca?

Tamari, a reporter for Channel 13, sparked outrage after he entered Mecca and filmed a report there as millions of Muslims from around the world conducted the Hajj (pilgrimage) to the Muslim holy city.

 Quran Gate, Entrance to Mecca (credit: Rowan5j/Wikimedia Commons) Quran Gate, Entrance to Mecca (credit: Rowan5j/Wikimedia Commons)

He was in Saudi Arabia because he had received a special permit, along with two other Israeli reporters, to cover the regional conference attended by US President Joe Biden last week.

Non-Muslim ban

Non-Muslims are completely prohibited from entering the city of Mecca and are largely banned from the city of Medina, although restrictions on access to the latter have reportedly been somewhat lightened in recent years.

The ban is largely based on a verse in the Quran (Surah At-Tawbah 9:28) banning polytheists from approaching the Great Mosque in Mecca.

In the Channel 13 report on Monday, Tamari notes that non-Muslims are not allowed into Mecca, but he proceeded to detail how he managed to enter the city and go up Mount Arafat with a Muslim driver nevertheless.

The journalist stressed that the driver did not know that he was an Israeli or non-Muslim journalist, as he took care to speak only in English.