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Israel Orders Closure of Al Jazeera’s Local Operation, Seizes Equipment

Al Jazeera faces closure in Israel (Credits: The Times of Israel)

Israel has taken the extraordinary step of ordering the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, escalating a long-running feud between the broadcaster and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government. The move comes as Doha-mediated cease-fire negotiations with Hamas hang in the balance.

The order, which includes confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel’s reports, and blocking its websites, is believed to be the first time Israel has ever shuttered a foreign news outlet.

Al Jazeera went off Israel’s main cable and satellite providers in the hours after the order, but its website and multiple online streaming links still operated on Sunday.

Israel orders Al Jazeera to close (Credits:

The network has reported the Israeli-Hamas war nonstop since the militants’ initial cross-border attack on October 7 and has maintained 24-hour coverage in the Gaza Strip despite Israel’s grinding ground offensive that has killed and wounded members of its own staff.

While including on-the-ground reporting of the war’s casualties, its Arabic arm often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other militant groups in the region.

Netanyahu stated that “Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel’s security and incited against soldiers” and that “it’s time to remove the Hamas mouthpiece from our country.” Al Jazeera vowed to “pursue all available legal channels through international legal institutions in its quest to protect both its rights and journalists, as well as the public’s right to information.”

The Israeli government has taken action against individual reporters over the decades since its founding in 1948, but broadly allows for a rambunctious media scene that includes foreign bureaus from around the world, even from Arab nations. However, a law passed last month allows the government to take action against a foreign channel seen as “harming the country.”

Israel orders Al Jazeera to close local operation (Credits: JNS)

The decision threatens to heighten tensions with Qatar at a time when the Doha government is playing a key role in mediation efforts to halt the war in Gaza, along with Egypt and the United States. Qatar has had strained ties with Netanyahu in particular since he made comments suggesting that Qatar is not exerting enough pressure on Hamas to prompt it to relent in its terms for a truce deal.

Hamas condemned the Israeli government order, calling on international organizations to take measures against Israel. The Foreign Press Association in Israel criticized the order, stating that “with this decision, Israel joins a dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban the station” and that “this is a dark day for the media.”

Human rights groups and media organizations have also condemned the move, warning of an “extremely alarming precedent for restricting international media outlets working in Israel.”

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