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Israel orders Al-Jazeera local offices to close

Photo: Zain Jaafar Agence France-Presse An Al-Jazeera correspondent in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on Sunday

Tia Goldenberg – Associated Press and Jon Gambrell – Associated Press in Tel Aviv

Published at 1:10 p.m.

  • Middle East

Israel on Sunday ordered the local offices of Qatari television news network Al-Jazeera to close, escalating a long-running feud between the channel and the hardline government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid ongoing ceasefire negotiations. with Hamas, under the mediation of Doha, are at stake.

This extraordinary order, which includes the confiscation of broadcast equipment, the ban on the broadcast of reports of the channel and the blocking of its websites, would be the first time that Israel has shut down a foreign news outlet.

Al-Jazeera has left the main Israeli cable company within hours of placing the order. However, its website and multiple online streaming links were still functioning as of Sunday.

The network has continuously covered the war between Israel and Hamas since the militants' first cross-border attack on October 7. It maintained 24-hour coverage in the Gaza Strip amid Israel's ground offensive that killed and injured its own personnel. While including on-the-ground reporting of war casualties, its Arab division often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other anti-Israel groups in the region.

“Al-Jazeera journalists undermined Israel’s security and incited attacks on soldiers,” Netanyahu said in a statement. It is time to remove Hamas' spokesperson from our country. »

Al-Jazeera issued a statement promising that it would “pursue all available legal avenues through international legal institutions in its quest to protect both its rights and those of journalists, as well as the public’s right to information.” .

“Israel's continued repression of press freedom, seen as an attempt to cover up its actions in the Gaza Strip, constitutes a violation of international law and humanitarian, said the channel. Israel's direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation and threats will not deter Al-Jazeera. »

Israeli media reported that the order allowed Israel to block the broadcast channel in the country for 45 days.

The Israeli government has taken action against individual journalists over the decades since its founding in 1948, but overall it allows for a turbulent media scene that includes foreign bureaus from around the world, even Arab countries. That changed with a law passed last month, which Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said allows the government to take action against a foreign channel deemed “harming the country.”

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi later posted footage online showing authorities raiding a hotel room from which Al-Jazeera was broadcasting in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope to have one day for their future state. He said officials seized some of the channel's equipment there.

The ban does not appear to affect the channel's operations in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip, where Israel has control but which are not sovereign Israeli territories.

The move threatens to increase tensions with Qatar at a time when the government in Doha plays a key role in mediation efforts to end the war in Gaza, alongside Egypt and the -United.

Qatar has had a strained relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, particularly since he made comments suggesting that Qatar was not exercising enough pressure on Hamas to encourage it to give in on its terms of a truce agreement. Qatar welcomes Hamas leaders in exile.

The parties appear close to reaching an agreement, but several previous rounds of negotiations have ended without an agreement.

“An attack on freedom of the press »

In a statement on Sunday, Hamas condemned the Israeli government's order, calling on international organizations to take action against Israel.< /p>

The Foreign Press Association in Israel criticized the decision.

“With this decision, Israel joins a club doubtful authoritarian governments wishing to ban the station, she argued. It's a dark day for the media. »

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch director for Israel and Palestine, criticized the Israeli order as “an attack on press freedom.”

“Rather than trying to silence reporting of its atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them,” he added.

Little Long after the government's decision, National Unity Party cabinet members criticized the timing, saying it “could sabotage efforts to finalize negotiations and stems from political considerations.” The party said it generally supported the decision.

Israel has long had difficult relations with Al-Jazeera, accusing it of bias. Relations deteriorated significantly almost two years ago when Al-Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.

These relations further deteriorated after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas on October 7, when the militant group carried out a cross-border attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage .

In December, an Israeli strike killed an Al-Jazeera cameraman while he was covering the war in southern Gaza. The channel's Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, was injured in the same attack.

Al-Jazeera in the midst of other conflicts

Al-Jazeera was one of the few international media outlets to remain in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting bloody scenes of airstrikes and hospitals overpopulated and accusing Israel of massacres.

However, criticism of the channel is not new. The U.S. government singled out the channel during the U.S. occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and for airing videos of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Al-Jazeera has been closed or blocked by other Middle Eastern governments. Notably, in 2013, Egyptian authorities raided a luxury hotel used by Al-Jazeera as an operational base after the military takeover following massive protests against President Mohammed Morsi.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116