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21 May, 2024 16:10

Israel seizes equipment of US news agency

The Associated Press live feed from Gaza was allegedly being used by the banned Al Jazeera
Israel seizes equipment of US news agency

Israeli authorities raided an Associated Press (AP) live position in the south of the country on Tuesday, claiming the agency was violating a new media law by allowing the live broadcast to be re-transmitted by its client, Al Jazeera.

AP claims Israeli communications ministry officials arrived at the agency's live location in the southern town of Sderot, two kilometers from Gaza and the scene of brutal fighting during the Hamas incursion last october, on Tuesday afternoon.

They handed AP staff a document signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi alleging the news agency was in violation of the country's controversial foreign broadcaster law, axed the live feed and confiscated the equipment. 

AP also revealed that it had received a verbal order from Israel on Thursday to stop the live transmission, but had refused to do so. Al Jazeera was one of AP’s many clients subscribing to the live feed.

Israel banned the Qatar-based multi-award winning news outlet earlier this month, calling its reporting on the Gaza conflict “incitement” of terrorism and vowing to seize any hardware used to deliver its content. Al Jazeera’s offices were closed on May 5 and its websites have been blocked in Israel.

In a statement, the ministry said it would “continue to take whatever enforcement action is required to limit broadcasts that harm the security of the state.”

AP’s feed from Sderot mainly showed smoke from explosions rising over northern Gaza, though Israel claims the feed put the lives of its soldiers at risk. The agency has insisted it complies with Israeli censorship rules and does not show anything that could endanger soldiers.

“The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law,” said Lauren Easton, the agency’s vice president of corporate communications. 

“We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world,” she added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government invaded Gaza last October, following a series of raids by Hamas militants on nearby Israeli military bases and villages. An estimated 1,200 Israelis were killed and another 250 taken captive in the October 7 attacks. 

Since then, Israeli military operations in Gaza have resulted in the deaths of some 35,500 Palestinians, while 79,652 have been injured, according to the enclave’s health ministry.