Saudis complain at fake Israel plane picture

Doctored image of an airplane Image copyright Twitter
Image caption The fake image has been tweeted thousands of times

Saudi Arabia's national carrier Saudia has dismissed a picture on social media of one of its planes parked at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport as a politically-motivated fabrication.

Spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Tayeb says "There are some quarters that use a large number of anonymous social media accounts to spread lies, rumours and exaggerations to harm and defame the airline, a national symbol," according to the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

"Unfortunately, some people, in good faith, re-tweet them without verifying their authenticity, which makes them responsible for their actions, and thus liable to punishment under the law," he warns.

Although he does not spell it out, Saudi readers will most likely identify the "quarters" Mr Al-Tayeb mentions as supporters of neighbouring Qatar, who are waging a fierce social media campaign against the Saudi-led blockade of the small Gulf state.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Qatar of funding terrorist groups and forging ties with the rival regional power Iran.

The original photograph was taken by Reuters news agency, and shows a plane of Israel's El Al national carrier at the airport.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The photo is actually of an El Al Boeing 777 plane at Ben Gurion Airport

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no diplomatic relations, and the Saudis remain very sensitive to media reports about informal contacts between the two countries.

When an empty Saudia plane did actually land at Ben Gurion airport in May 2015 - flown there by a Portuguese company that had leased the off-duty plane - Saudia promptly cancelled the contract.

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