DUBAI (Reuters) - A prominent Saudi cleric has offered to pay $100,000 (62,649 pounds) to any Palestinian who kidnaps an Israeli soldier, according to his Facebook page.
Awad al-Qarni said he had made the offer in response to a similar reward promised by an Israeli family for anyone who catches the person who killed one of its members in 1998, following the exchange this month of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
“The media reported the news of the Zionist occupiers paying a huge sum to anyone who killed the freed Palestinian prisoners,” Qarni, who is well known in Saudi Arabia for his outspoken views but is not part of the official clerical establishment, said on his Facebook page.
“In response to those criminals, I announce to the world that I am committed to pay a $100,000 prize to any Palestinian inside Palestine who takes an Israeli soldier captive to exchange with (remaining) prisoners.”
Qarni told Al Arabiya television that he had received wide support on his Facebook page and elsewhere.
“We have also received letters from ... groups from Arab countries. So the issue is not limited to Qarni, who was just the person who launched this initiative,” he told the station by telephone.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, sees itself as a champion of Palestinian rights but Saudi leaders have been at pains to curb more radical statements by Muslim clerics on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 2002, the Western-allied kingdom floated a peace initiative calling for full Arab recognition of Israel if it gave up all lands occupied in a 1967 war and accepts a solution for Palestinian refugees.
Reporting by Firouz Sedarat and Isabel Coles; Editing by Kevin Liffey