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2 Apr, 2024 03:13

Israel to ban Al Jazeera – Netanyahu

The Knesset has allowed the government to suspend the broadcast of foreign TV channels on security grounds
Israel to ban Al Jazeera – Netanyahu

The Israeli government will ban Al Jazeera, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, labeling the Qatar-based pan-Arab network a mouthpiece of Hamas. The statement came almost six months into Israel’s war in Gaza. 

On Monday, the Knesset passed a temporary law allowing the prime minister to ban a foreign channel and shut down its offices if it is deemed a threat to national security. Netanyahu, who is recovering from hernia surgery, said he plans to use the law against Al Jazeera.

“Al Jazeera has harmed Israel’s security, actively participated in the October 7 massacre, and incited against Israeli soldiers. It is time to remove the bullhorn of Hamas from our country,” Netanyahu wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday. 

“The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said the channel will be blocked “in the coming days,” adding that “there won’t be freedom of expression for Hamas mouthpieces,” according to the Times of Israel. The legislation will remain in force until July 31, 2024, or until the end of “significant military actions” in the war with Hamas, the Knesset said.

Al Jazeera released a statement, saying that it “holds the Israeli prime minister responsible for the safety of its staff and network premises around the world, following his incitement and this false accusation. The channel said that “such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage,” and threatened legal action.

Some Israeli legislators have opposed the law. MK Mansour Abbas argued that Al Jazeera should be allowed to broadcast because it “gives a platform to speakers from Israel, even to military spokespersons.”

The US also voiced concerns about the new law. “We believe in the freedom of the press … and that includes those who are reporting in the conflict in Gaza. So we believe that work is important,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank in 2022. In December, Samer Abudaqa, a cameraman working for the channel, was killed during the IDF operation in Gaza. Al Jazeera blamed the Israeli army for both deaths.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militants carried out a surprise cross-border raid on October 7, killing some 1,100 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Dozens of captives were subsequently released through prisoner swaps during a weeklong ceasefire in November.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Health Service in Gaza.