Netanyahu’s cabinet voted to close Al Jazeera offices in Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel ordered the closure of local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network Sunday, escalating a long-running feud between the broadcaster and the hard-line government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hamas hangs in the balance.

The extraordinary order, which includes seizing broadcasting equipment, preventing the channel from broadcasting its reports and blocking its websites, is believed to be the first time Israel has shut down a foreign news agency.

Al Jazeera shut down Israel’s main cable provider within hours of the order. However, streaming links on its website and other online platforms are still running on Sunday.

The network, which has reported nonstop on the Israel-Hamas war since the militants’ initial cross-border attack, has maintained 24-hour coverage of the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s ground offensive. Its Arab wing often publishes verbatim video reports from Hamas and other militant groups in the region, including ground-level reporting on the war’s casualties, drawing Netanyahu’s ire.

“Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel’s security and incited against soldiers,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It’s time to remove the Hamas mouthpiece from our country.”

Al Jazeera issued a statement pledging to “pursue all available legal avenues through international legal institutions in the quest to protect both its rights and the right to information of journalists and the public.”

“Israel’s suppression of the independent press is seen as an attempt to cover up its activities in the Gaza Strip, which is contrary to international and humanitarian law,” the network said. “Israel’s direct targeting of journalists, arrests, intimidation and intimidation does not stop Al Jazeera from engaging, while more than 140 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the start of the war on Gaza.”

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The order allows Israel to block the channel from operating in the country for 45 days, Israeli media reported.

The Israeli government has cracked down on individual reporters for decades since its founding in 1948, but widely allows a bustling media scene that includes foreign bureaus from around the world, even Arab countries. That changed with a law passed last month that Netanyahu’s office says allows the government to take action against a foreign channel that “harms the country.”

Immediately after the announcement, Al Jazeera’s English division began airing a pre-recorded message from one of its correspondents from a hotel the channel had been using in East Jerusalem for months, saying Palestinians were looking forward to their future state one day.

“They ban any device – that includes my mobile phone,” said reporter Imran Khan. “If I use it for any kind of news gathering, the Israelis can simply confiscate it.”

The ban does not affect the channel’s operations in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip, which are controlled by Israel but are not sovereign Israeli territory.

The decision threatens to escalate tensions with Qatar at a time when the Doha government is playing a key role in mediation efforts to stop Qatar. War in Gazawith Egypt and America.

Qatar has expanded ties with Netanyahu in particular, saying Qatar has not applied enough pressure on Hamas to force it to back down on its terms for a cease-fire agreement. Qatar hosts exiled Hamas leaders at political office in Doha

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

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In a statement on Sunday, Hamas condemned the Israeli government’s order and called on international organizations to take action against Israel.

After the government’s decision, National Unity Party cabinet members criticized its timing, saying it could “sabotage efforts to finalize negotiations and stem from political considerations.” The party said it generally supports the decision.

Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias. Al Jazeera Correspondent Almost two years ago, relations suffered a major breakdown Shireen Abu Aghle Killed during an Israeli military attack in the occupied West Bank.

Those relations further soured following the outbreak Israel’s War Against Hamas On October 7, the militant group launched a cross-border attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took 250 hostages. Since then, the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 people, according to local health officials there, who did not break down the figures into civilians and combatants.

In December, an Israeli attack killed one Al Jazeera cameraman He reported on the war in southern Gaza. Wael Dahdouh, the channel’s bureau chief in Gaza, was wounded in the same attack. Dahdouh, a reporter well known to Palestinians during several wars, later evacuated Gaza. His wife, three of his children and a grandson were killed in Israeli strikes.

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

Israel accuses Qatari government-funded Al Jazeera of collaborating with Hamas. However, criticism of the channel is not new. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the broadcaster was quarantined by the US government after it aired videos of Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader who toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

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Covered or blocked by Al Jazeera Other Middle Eastern governments. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are among those that have boycotted Doha for years amid a multi-year political dispute that ends in 2021.

In 2013, Egyptian authorities raided a luxury hotel used by Al Jazeera as an operating base after the army took over it following mass protests against President Mohamed Morsi. The channel was apparently targeted because of its regular coverage of Muslim Brotherhood protests over Morsi’s ouster.

Three Al-Jazeera employees, Australian Peter Creste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Bahar Mohamed, received 10-year prison sentences but were released in 2015 following widespread international criticism.

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Gambrel reports from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Jack Jeffrey in Jerusalem contributed.

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