Israel Moves to Suspend 'the Hamas Mouthpiece'

Cabinet's decision can shut down Al Jazeera for 45 days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 5, 2024 10:35 AM CDT
Israel Moves to Suspend 'the Hamas Mouthpiece'
Al Jazeera employees pack equipment and talk on the phone at the station's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah in July 2009 after the Palestinian government suspended the broadcaster's West Bank operations, alleging incitement and unbalanced reporting.   (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government has voted unanimously to shut down the local offices of Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera, escalating Israel's long-running feud with the channel at a time when cease-fire negotiations with Hamas—mediated by Qatar—are gaining steam. According to a statement from Netanyahu's office, the decision goes into effect immediately, the AP reports. It could include closing the channel's offices in Israel, confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel's reports, and blocking its websites, among other measures, the statement said.

Israeli media said the vote allows Israel to block the channel from operating in the country for 45 days, according to the decision. "Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel's security and incited against soldiers," Netanyahu said in the statement. "It's time to remove the Hamas mouthpiece from our country." The extraordinary move is believed to be the first time Israel has ever shuttered a foreign news outlet, per the AP, though its government has taken action against individual reporters in the past. The statement from Netanyahu's office said that under a law passed last month, the government can take action against a foreign channel seen as "harming the country."

Al Jazeera is one of the few international media outlets to remain in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting bloody scenes of airstrikes and accusing Israel of massacres. Israel accuses Al Jazeera of collaborating with Hamas. Al Jazeera, which is funded by Qatar's government, did not immediately respond to a request from the AP for comment. While Al Jazeera's English operation often resembles programming on other major broadcast networks, its Arabic arm often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other militant groups. It similarly came under harsh US criticism during America's occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. Al Jazeera has been closed or blocked by other Mideast governments, as well.

(More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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