In First, Saudi Arabia's National Soccer Team Plays Against Palestinians in West Bank

Palestinians are divided over the visit, with some pleased and some seeing it as a sign of warming behind-the-scenes ties with Israel

Palestinian women welcome Saudi Arabia's national football players with flowers in Ramallah on October 13, 2019.

Saudi Arabia’s national soccer team has arrived in the West Bank for its first match in the Palestinian territories.

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

Members of Saudi Arabia's national football team are welcomed in the Palestinian city of Ramallah on October 13, 2019.

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.