Israel condemns Temple Mount attacks on Saudi guest

Israeli officials slam 'Palestinian thugs' who harassed Saudi blogger as he toured Jerusalem's Old City. 'Barbaric, impudent.'


Temple Mount
Temple Mount
Flash 90

Israeli government officials on Tuesday condemned the actions of Arab youths who hurled abuse and chairs at a Saudi blogger visiting Jerusalem as a guest of the Jewish state.

The Saudi visitor, named by Israeli public radio as Mohammed Saud, was one of six invitees from Arab states brought to Israel by its foreign ministry to give them fresh viewpoints on the country.

Such visits have been held before, but Iraq and Saudi Arabia were taking part for the first time, the foreign ministry said.

Delegates were expected to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, an official said.

Video posted online showed mainly young Arabs spitting, cursing and throwing plastic chairs at Saud as he walked on Monday through the Old City of Jerusalem.

The spitting and abuse continued as he toured the Temple Mount.

"Go and pray with the Jews, go and pray in the Knesset. What are you doing here?" one man shouted.

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Netanyahu, described Saud as a "peace activist".

"When he came to pray at the #AlAqsaMosque, Palestinian thugs attacked him and spat on him, thus defiling this holy place," Gendelman wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

"It was barbaric, impudent," a foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Kabia, told AFP.

He would not identify the visitors but described them as "social activists, bloggers and media people."

The visit comes as Israel seeks to improve ties with Gulf Arab countries, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.

Those states have held off offering Israel formal recognition, but their relations have warmed of late, largely due to common concerns over Iran.

The journalists were to visit Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, parliament and holy sites, among others, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said it had "the aim of exposing the journalists -- some of whom come from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel -- to Israeli positions on diplomatic and geopolitical issues".

Jordan is also participating, the ministry said.

It is one of only two Arab countries, along with Egypt, that have diplomatic relations with Israel.

On Thursday, Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz said he had met his Bahraini counterpart publicly for the first time during a visit to Washington last week.

Katz also recently visited Abu Dhabi for a UN climate conference, where he met United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and an unnamed "high ranking UAE official".