Israeli government orders closure of Al Jazeera operations

Channel's offices to be closed and transmissions in Arabic and English to cease after unanimous decision

An employee works inside the office of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
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The Israeli government on Sunday approved the closure of Al Jazeera in Israel over its coverage of the war in Gaza.

"The government under my leadership decided unanimously: The incitement channel Al Jazeera will be shut down in Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on X.

The vote was passed unanimously by Israel's cabinet, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The government has ordered the cessation of the channel's broadcasts in Israel, in Arabic and English, and its offices must be closed.

It also ordered the equipment used by its personnel to be confiscated and to limit access from Israel to the network's website.

The ban will be implemented immediately, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi announced.

"Too much time has passed and too many unnecessary legal hurdles for us to finally be able to stop Al Jazeera's oiled incitement machine that harms the security of the country," he said in a video message posted to X.

"For months, I did everything and will continue to do everything so that they can no longer operate from Israel," he added.

The law must be renewed by a judge every 45 days.

The network's employees, including cameramen, have been killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza, while bureau chief Wael Al Dahdouh has lost several members of his family.

"The worry here in the occupied West Bank is that we will be next,” Al Jazeera quoted reporter Zein Basravi as saying in Ramallah.

The Knesset last month passed a law that orders the closure of foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscation of their equipment if deemed to be a security risk.

Mr Netanyahu and other government officials have repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of incitement against Israel, and have accused its employees of terrorism.

“Al Jazeera harmed Israel’s security, actively participated in the October 7 massacre, and incited against Israeli soldiers,” Mr Netanyahu previously said on X.

His government's move was condemned by the UN and Foreign Press Association (FPA).

"We regret the cabinet decision to close Al Jazeera in Israel," the UN Human Rights Office said on X. "A free and independent media is essential to ensuring transparency and accountability. Now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza."

The FPA said it was "a dark day for the media" and warned that other media outlets might face similar action.

"The prime minister has the authority to target other foreign media that he deems to be 'acting against the state'," the FPA said in a statement issued by its board.

Updated: May 06, 2024, 1:50 PM