King Salman pressured US to ensure Israel reopens Al-Aqsa: Report

King Salman chairs the Cabinet meeting in Jeddah on Monday. (SPA)
Updated 19 July 2017
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King Salman pressured US to ensure Israel reopens Al-Aqsa: Report

JEDDAH: Saudi King Salman is said to have personally intervened with top US officials to ensure the reopening of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
According to a report in Elaph online portal, the king spoke with top US officials seeking the holy mosque’s reopening.
The report quotes a senior source as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised US officials that he had decided to restore the status quo at the mosque which is what the Muslim world and the residents of Jerusalem have been demanding.    
According to Elaph, Netanyahu has invited Saudi officials to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and to assess first-hand the situation on the ground.
Arab News has sought a response from the White House in order to confirm the report.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Cabinet expressed deep concern over the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli occupation authorities.
It constituted a flagrant offense to Muslim sentiments around the world, said the Saudi Cabinet.
Such an act is a dangerous development that will further complicate the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, it added.
King Salman chaired the Cabinet session on Monday at Al-Salaam Palace in Jeddah.
The Cabinet called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility and put an end to such practices.
Muslims heeded calls Monday not to enter the holy site and protested outside after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entrances to the compound.
Palestinians view the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the holy site.
The Waqf, Jordan’s Islamic authority that manages religious affairs at the site, was outraged over the metal detectors.
The Waqf, together with other Islamic groups, issued a statement Monday calling on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
They called on the faithful “not to enter the mosque through” the detectors.
The statement said that “if the metal detectors continue to be imposed, we call upon the people to pray in front of the gates of the mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem.”
The Haram Al-Sharif compound was largely empty on Monday apart from tourists and Jewish visitors, with Muslims again praying and protesting outside the site instead of entering through the metal detectors.
Several hundred people could be seen praying outside two different entrances to the site around midday on Monday.
There were protests after the prayer, with crowds shouting: “Aqsa mosque, we sacrifice our souls and our blood.” Police later sought to move them back.
“We will not break the solidarity of the people,” said Jamal Abdallah, a Palestinian who now lives in the US state of Arizona and was planning to visit Al-Aqsa, but changed his mind when he was told of the situation.
Israel installed the metal detectors after an attack on Friday near the holy site that saw three people open fire on Israeli police.
They then fled to the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision to install the metal detectors and cameras following a meeting with security officials Saturday. He also spoke by phone with Jordan’s King Abdallah Saturday night.
The king condemned the attack, but also called on Netanyahu to reopen the Al-Aqsa compound and stressed the need to “avoid any escalation at the site.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas conveyed a similar message to Netanyahu when the two spoke by phone on Friday in the wake of the attack.
— With inputs from AFP, AP


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 35 min 49 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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