Palestinians share their joy over performing Hajj

Palestinians share their joy over performing Hajj
The costs of Hajj amount to $3,920 (SR14,700) per person, as Palestinian sources told Arab News that there was a slight increase in costs associated with Hajj for this year. (SPA)
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Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinians share their joy over performing Hajj

Palestinians share their joy over performing Hajj
  • Twenty qualified companies are operating in the West Bank to transport pilgrims

RAMALLAH: Walid Ghuneim, 59, from Bethlehem on the West Bank, was overwhelmed with joy when a lottery system chose him and his wife to perform Hajj four years ago.

However, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of his Hajj performance, and he kept waiting until his name was chosen this year among 1,900 citizens of the West Bank.

Ghuneim, a building materials trader, did not sleep the night of his journey to Hajj, as his six sons, daughters, and their sons came to bid him farewell, with his brothers, sisters, relatives and friends also seeing him off.

In the early hours of the dawn, he and his wife were the first to arrive at the meeting point of pilgrims in Bethlehem set by the Hajj company. They took the bus to Jericho Crossing and then crossed the Israeli bridge linking the West Bank and Jordan on its way with 52 other passengers to Madinah, the first stop of the three-week pilgrimage.

“I did not sleep last night, and I am delighted and eager to see and visit the Prophet’s Mosque and the Holy Mosque in Makkah and perform Hajj with my wife,” Ghuneim, who is visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time in his life, told Arab News.

“All my bus colleagues and I are pleased with this great journey to perform Hajj,” he added.

Sameh Jbara, director of Palestinian Hajj and Umrah companies, told Arab News that the Saudi authorities had allowed 1,900 pilgrims from the West Bank and 600 from the Gaza Strip to perform the Hajj this year — after a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic — which constitutes 45 percent of the previous allocation for Palestinians before the outbreak.

The costs of Hajj amount to $3,920 (SR14,700) per person, as Palestinian sources told Arab News that there was a slight increase in costs associated with Hajj for this year.

Twenty qualified companies are operating in the West Bank to transport pilgrims. They manage their logistics during the Hajj period, while Palestinian pilgrims spend 21 trips back and forth and performing Hajj, spending the first four days of it in Madinah before heading to Makkah, while Palestinian pilgrims travel by buses from the West Bank via Israel and Jordan, through to Saudi Arabia, on a trip that takes 24 hours to Madinah.

The Palestinian Minister of Awqaf Hatem Al-Bakri told Arab News that his ministry submitted a request to the Saudi authorities to increase Palestine’s quota of pilgrims and received a promise that if there were an increase, it would be a small percentage.

“The arrangements and procedures for this year’s pilgrimage were carried out in full coordination and cooperation between the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and us according to the protocols signed in this regard,” the minister said, adding: “We have taken into account the health protocols required by our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and they are fully compatible with the protocols of the World Health Organization.”

The Hajj mission is accompanied by an administrative, media, health and security delegation of 650 people.

Ibrahim Melhem, the spokesperson of the Palestinian government, told Arab News that the Palestinian government had been in cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj for several months to ensure the necessary arrangements. He said that the Saudi authorities were highly organized and had conducted early planning for hotels, buses transporting pilgrims, and moving between the rites of Hajj.

“The country with the most experience in crowd management is Saudi Arabia,” Melhem told Arab News.

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Updated 13 August 2022

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RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Armed Forces and US Marine Corps on Saturday launched a joint training exercise along the Red Sea coast in the western city of Yanbu, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense said.

The “Outrageous Anger 22” exercise was inaugurated in the presence of Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Dibais, commander of the western sector, and Maj. Gen. Paul Rock, commander of the Marine Corps at the US Central Command, as well as senior officers from the Saudi armed forces and US Army.

An inspection tour included sites where the two forces will conduct the joint operations.

Col. Saud Al-Aqili, commander of the exercise, said that it aims to rehearse implementation of bilateral operational and logistical plans, exchange expertise between the two sides, and develop complementary work with civil authorities.

Col. Matthew Hakula, commander of the US forces, said that the joint maneuvers will raise combat readiness, as well as strengthen compatibility between Saudi and US troops.

The month-long drill includes logistical exercises and operations with live ammunition.


Saudi authorities convict African expat of trying to launder nearly $300,000 outside Kingdom

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Updated 13 August 2022

Saudi authorities convict African expat of trying to launder nearly $300,000 outside Kingdom

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  • The investigation revealed that the accused attempted to transfer the money by hiding it inside date cartons, which were found in his bag

RIYADH: An African expatriate who attempted to money launder more than $250,000 has been sentenced to two years in prison, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

A source at the Public Prosecution said that the Economic Crimes Prosecution’s investigations found that the man had tried to transfer $297,000, in addition to SR5,000 ($1,331), via King Abdulaziz International Airport outside the Kingdom.

The investigation revealed that the accused attempted to transfer the money by hiding it inside date cartons, which were found in his bag.

It revealed that the seized amounts were derived from practices that violated a number of regulations.

A general criminal case was filed against the offender on charges of money laundering by attempting to smuggle cash outside the Kingdom, and a preliminary ruling was issued against him that included his conviction.

The money was seized, and he will be deported from the country after serving his sentence. The Public Prosecution Office also submitted an appeal for a stiffer penalty for the offender.

The Public Prosecution said it would take anyone seeking to harm the financial system and the national economy to court, and demand severe penalties.

The office frequently highlights, through its social media accounts, the need to disclose financial values and cash amounts that exceed SR60,000 if leaving the Kingdom or passing through any of its ports.


Saudi KSrelief chief tours refugee centers in Poland

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Updated 13 August 2022

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RIYADH: The general-supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, visited a center run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Polish city of Jyszow on Friday, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Al-Rabeeah was accompanied by the Kingdom’s ambassador to Poland, Saad bin Saleh Al-Saleh, and UNHCR representatives on a tour of the facilities, which are closely linked to aid provided as part of Saudi Arabia’s $10 million grant to support refugees from Ukraine, of which $5 million was allocated through KSrelief to the UNHCR.

Al-Rabeeah toured the UNHCR shelter distribution center to see how the aid is delivered to beneficiaries and what plans are in place to respond to refugees’ urgent needs.

Al-Rabeeah said that the housing aid provided by the Kingdom targets nearly 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, and stressed that Saudi Arabia is always keen to support refugees anywhere in the world.

He also commended the high level of professionalism demonstrated by the UNHCR.

Al-Rabeeah also visited a medical transport station in the city of Przemysl, which currently hosts a large number of refugees from Ukraine.

During the visit, the station’s director, Rafał Kijanka, clarified the station’s efforts to provide necessary medical aid to refugees from Ukraine in Poland with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.


No permit for children below 5 years in Grand Mosque of Makkah

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Updated 13 August 2022

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RIYADH: Children below five years old can enter the Grand Mosque of Makkah without a permit, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Saturday.

“Parents can take their children who are below five years old without the need to get them a permit,” the ministry said in a Twitter post.

However, children over five years old must obtain a permit through the “Eatmarna” app to enter the holy site.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia announced that holders of all types of visas will be able to perform Umrah during their stay in the Kingdom.


Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast

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Updated 13 August 2022

Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast

Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast
  • Abdullah Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when authorities attempted to arrest him in Jeddah, injuring four
  • Arab world praised the Kingdom's effort to maintain security and safeguard lives

DUBAI: Arab nations have expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia on Saturday in the wake of the death of a suicide bomber in Jeddah.

Abdullah Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when authorities attempted to arrest him in Jeddah, injuring a Pakistani resident and three security men.

In a statement, the UAE condemned the blast, reiterating its stance against “all threats to the Kingdom’s security and stability.”

The country’s ministry of foreign affairs commended the efficiency of the Saudi security forces during the operation and measures taken to maintain public safety, conveying wishes for a speedy recovery of those injured in the blast.

Bahrain was another Gulf country that reaffirmed “unwavering solidarity” with Saudi Arabia and commended relentless efforts to preserve national security. It also praised the vigilance of security forces in dealing with the wanted man.

Kuwait reiterated its backing to the Kingdom’s effort against security threats. “Kuwait stands by Saudi Arabia and supports all measures it may take to safeguard its security and the safety of its people,” Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by state news agency (KUNA).

The ministry lauded the efficient security operation and the authorities’ targeted efforts to block any bid that poses a threat to the Kingdom’s stability.

In a statement published by the state news agency (PETRA), Jordan conveyed support to the Kingdom “in every step taken to protect its security.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Haitham Abu Alfoul praised efforts of Saudi security forces in addressing threats to the Kingdom’s stability and safety.

 

 

Egypt also voiced support to Saudi Arabia’s fight against “all forms of terrorism” and any violation that threatens national security.  

In an official statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry hailed the Kingdom’s proactive measures and capabilities to track down terrorists and safeguard lives.  

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the bombing and praised the Kingdom’s firm action against any threat that undermines its safety and security.

Meanwhile, Arab Parliament Speaker Adel Al-Asoumi stressed on his confidence in the Kingdom’s vigilance to protect its vital facilities, combat terrorism, and ensure the safety of its citizens and expats.

On Friday, the Saudi security state announced the operation of tracking down and arresting Al-Shehri, who was among nine wanted individuals involved in a 2015 terrorist operation that targeted a mosque in Saudi Arabia. He has been listed as a wanted person by authorities in the Kingdom for the past seven years, according to the statement.