Saudi soccer team visits West Bank for 1st time

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Saudi Arabia's national soccer team has arrived in the West Bank for its first match in the Palestinian territories.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed team representatives on Sunday. He says Tuesday's World Cup qualifier illustrates deep bonds between the two peoples.

Abbas says: "We are proud of this visit, and we feel it embodies the historical relationship between Saudi Arabia and Palestine."

The two teams have played many times, and the Palestinians have hosted other Arab teams. But Saudi Arabia has never visited the West Bank before, apparently because it did not want to be seen as legitimizing Israel's occupation of the territory.

Many Palestinians welcomed the Saudi visit as an important show of support. But some social media critics believe it reflects Saudi Arabia's warming behind-the-scenes ties with Israel.