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Saudi rule change may bar Israeli Muslims from Mecca pilgrimage: Report

Riyadh : Israeli Muslims will not be able to reach Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage because of a change in passport regulations made by Saudi Arabia, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

The new rules close a loophole that allowed passage from Israel, which does not have diplomatic relations with the Saudi kingdom, home to Islam’s two holiest shrines.

Saudi authorities announced they will no longer accept the temporary passports that Jordan had issued to Israeli Muslims to facilitate the trip, Haaretz said.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said in a text message that the government is “checking the situation.” Jordanian religious authorities in Jerusalem declined to comment.

According to Haaretz, the change also affects those Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip who hold temporary Jordanian passports, though not those with Palestinian travel documents. Palestinian Authority officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel have been growing stronger, with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying recently that the killing of Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey shouldn’t be allowed to destabilize the kingdom.