Saudi Arabia steps up arrests of its citizens who comment against Israel's war on social media

Friday, May 3, 2024 - Saudi Arabia has reportedly stepped up arrests of its citizens who comment against Israel over the war in Gaza, despite Riyadh having no relations with Israel.

Recent detentions have included an executive for a company involved in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 economic plan who expressed views on the war deemed incendiary by local authorities, Bloomberg says.

A media figure who said Israel should never be forgiven and another individual called for the boycott of American fast-food restaurants in the kingdom, unnamed sources tell Bloomberg.

The arrests are aimed at deterring people from making online statements about the war that might harm national security, a source familiar with the Saudi government’s thinking tells Bloomberg.

Another Saudi source familiar with the matter says there has been a major increase in inmates over the last six months at one of the country’s maximum-security prisons. This was corroborated by several Saudi diplomats and rights groups who say they’ve also noticed a spike in social media-related arrests since October 7. However, many of those detentions could well be for posts unrelated to the Israel-Hamas war, the sources say.

Riyadh and its regional allies, including Egypt and Jordan, have clamped down on protests in their own countries with fears that pro-Palestine rallies could reignite uprisings against authorities in those countries.

The report comes as Saudi Arabia and Israel take steps through an agreement brokered by Washington.

The Biden administration has been talking with Saudi Arabia and Israel on a potential peace agreement since before 7 October and talks have continued during Israel's war on Gaza but there appear to be still stumbling blocks to an agreement.

While negotiations with Riyadh were still underway, an agreement could potentially see the US supply technology to help develop nuclear power in Saudi Arabia in return for normalisation with Israel.

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