2 Arab Israelis in Saudi trial for alleged plot to attack Hajj

Riyadh: Two Arab Israelis went on trial in Saudi Arabia on Monday for allegedly plotting an attack during the Muslim hajj pilgrimage, according to the charge sheet and local media reports. The charge sheet, a copy of which AFP obtained from a source who attended the first hearing, said the two suspects had travelled to the kingdom which is home to Islam’s holiest site on passports of an Arab country.

The two men were charged with spying for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and of planning “a terrorist act for the hajj season”, which this year falls in August, while one of them was also accused of contacts with the Islamic State jihadist group. The Saudi dailies Okaz and Al-Riyadh said the trial opened in the capital’s special anti-terrorism court, without specifying when the men had been arrested.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations, but their ties have improved behind the scenes. The Gulf state’s reformist and powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said in an interview published in early April during a US tour that Israel has the “right” to a homeland. Arab Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. Today they account for some 17.5 percent of Israel’s population.