Saudi Arabia restricts drone operations following palace incident

Israel-Saudi liaison

On Saturday, videos posted online purported to show Saudi security forces shooting down the drone near King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's palace, with heavy gunfire.

The report said a remote-controlled toy aircraft was flown into a security cordon in the Khuzama neighborhood of the city.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said a law for the use of drones was in its final stage and called on users to obtain the necessary police clearance to use the devices "for particular reasons in permitted locations", state news agency SPA reported.

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There was no information of where the king was.

King Salman was not present in his palace in Riyadh on Saturday when security forces shot down the drone in the area, a senior Saudi official told Reuters.

Government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the whereabouts of the Saudi king and crown prince during the incident.

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But the government ruled out any major security breach, adding that an investigation had been launched into the incident.

Royal guards killed the gunman, identified by the ministry as a 28-year-old Saudi national armed with a Kalashnikov and three grenades.

In 2015, the Gulf kingdom banned drones "of all types and sizes" from operating in Saudi skies without a special permit from the General Authority of Civil Aviation. Space for criticism has also narrowed in recent months following the arrests of prominent clerics and activists in an apparent bid to silence dissent.

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Smaller groups moved closer to the fence, throwing stones, torching tires and burning large Israeli flags. When gunmen shot at the aircraft, they were fired upon, the Israeli army said.

Those moves have helped Prince Mohammed consolidate his position in a country where power had been shared among senior princes for decades and religious figures exercised significant influence on policy.

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