Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has come under fire after a tweet appeared on his official account in which he promised to gift a Bentley vehicle to every Saudi pilot conducting airstrikes against Shiite Houthi targets in Yemen. The tweet was swiftly deleted, and Saudi media claimed it was the product of a “hack.”
The UK Telegraph reports that Prince Al-Waleed himself has not denied the tweet or spoken about it publicly, but it no longer appears on his account, and Saudi media have reported that the prince was hacked. Agence France-Presse notes that the Prince’s press office did not respond to requests for comment regarding the incident.
The offending tweet lives on in saved images being circulated widely in Arab-speaking social media:
— ر Tala ن (@Taltool11) April 22, 2015
The Telegraph translates the content of the tweet: “In appreciation of their role in this operation, I’m honoured to offer 100 Bentley cars to the 100 Saudi [fighter] pilots.” While many users praised the prince for his “generosity” within Saudi Arabia, the British newspaper notes that others condemned the incentive to kill more Yemeni citizens.
Saudi Arabia began conducting airstrikes in Yemen as part of Operation Decisive Storm, a military option intended to respond to the overthrow of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi by Shiite Houthi rebels, believed to be highly supported by the government of Iran. This week, the nation announced the end of Decisive Storm and the beginning of Operation Restoring Hope. While the difference between the two missions was not immediately clear, Saudi Arabia claimed Restoring Hope would emphasize the protection of civilians in the ongoing conflict. Airstrikes have continued with little change, however.
According to the World Health Organization, 1,080 people have been killed and 4,352 injured since March 19, when Houthis attacked Aden International Airport.
Prince Al-Waleed is among the wealthiest Saudi citizens, the head of Kingdom Holding Company, “which has interests ranging from the Euro Disney theme park to Four Seasons hotels, Citigroup and media giant News Corporation.” He has invested heavily in real estate and previously attempted to open a media venture in Bahrain, which the government shut down.
Prince Al-Waleed has a history of offering free Bentleys for a variety of reasons. In 2014, he allegedly gave Sami Al Jaber, the coach of the Al Hilal soccer team, a Bentley to congratulate him on the team’s victories. He also allegedly gave the Saudi special needs soccer team 42 of the luxury cars after they won their World Cup tournament twice in a row.
Another Bentley tied to Prince Al-Waleed arrived in the hands of a special needs child through actor Fayez Al Malki, to whom Al-Waleed gave the car. Al Malki, in turn, gave the car to a “local boy who survived a crash that killed his entire family.”