Several families of Palestinian detainees imprisoned by Saudi Arabia held a rare protest in Gaza on Wednesday, calling on the kingdom to free them.
The families gathered outside the International Committee of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, holding banners against the detention and calling for an end to their “torture” in Saudi prisons.
Most of the nearly 50 detainees are believed to be affiliated with Hamas, the Islamic terror group that controls Gaza.
Hamas officials say Saudi authorities intensified a crackdown on the jihadist group’s supporters in the kingdom this year, rounding up dozens of Palestinian doctors, engineers and traders across the country. The move apparently came as Hamas announced it has fully restored ties with Iran, Riyadh’s longtime regional rival.
Hamas says Saudi Arabia arrested the Palestinians for collecting donations for Palestinian charities, not on security charges.
Bassem Naim, a Hamas official, said the prisoners did not carry out any “political activities” in Saudi Arabia. Condemning the detentions, he said the arrests served Israel.
“Many signs suggest that these detentions have a political framework to pursue anybody who engages with the worries of their people and their just cause. Certainly, these arrests only serve the Israeli occupation, its programs and projects in the region,” he said.
Mohammed al-Aqqad, who attended the sit-in, said his three nephews, who were born in Riyadh, were recently arrested.
“They work in a society that presents donations for the poor in Gaza and builds mosques in Gaza, this is what we know about the society,” he said.
Separately on Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Saudi King Salman in Riyadh thanked him for “the kingdom’s supportive positions of the Palestinian people on all levels,” the official PA news site Wafa reported.
The Saudi monarch reaffirmed to Abbas the kingdom’s “permanent support for Palestine and its brotherly people’s right in the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the Saudi state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.
Abbas arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and while there watched the first-ever West Bank match between the Saudi and Palestinian national soccer teams.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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