Israel to shut down Al Jazeera offices amid rising tensions

Israel to shut down Al Jazeera offices amid rising tensions

Israel's government has voted to close down Al Jazeera, amid rising tensions over the media outlet's coverage of the war in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that his cabinet had unanimously voted to shut down the local offices of the Qatar-owned broadcaster.

He revealed the government’s decision on X, though further details were not clear.

"My government decided unanimously: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will close in Israel," the post read in Hebrew.

In a statement posted to X, Al Jazeera described the decision as "deceptive," "slanderous" and a "criminal act that violates human rights and the basic right to access information."

Its bureau chief for Israel and Palestinian territories, Walid Al-Omari, said it was a "very dangerous decision against Al Jazeera and against the international media."

"It's clear at least that they want to prevent any others to know what's happening in this war, in Gaza, inside Israel, in the West Bank," he said.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the decision on X, calling it "repressive legislation" aiming to "censor the channel for its coverage of the war in Gaza."

The implications for the news broadcaster were not immediately apparent – for example, when the ban would come into effect and whether the decision was permanent or temporary.

No immediate comment was available from the Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

However, a correspondent at the broadcaster said the order would only affect its operations in Israel and east Jerusalem. Operations in Palestinian territories would not be affected, they added.

Israel has had a tense relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against the country.

Al Jazeera has been one of the few broadcasters to remain in Gaza during the war, broadcasting the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals.

It has accused Israel of massacres and war crimes, while Israel accuses Al Jazeera of collaborating with Hamas.

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier while reporting in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. In December, an apparent Israeli strike killed the mother, father and 20 other family members of Al Jazeera correspondent, Momen Al Sharafi.

The decision to ban the newsgroup marks an escalation in the long-running feud between Israel and Al Jazeera.

It also threatens to heighten political tensions between Israel and Qatar, who are playing a key role in mediation efforts to halt the Israel Hamas war.

Previously Israel's Knesset passed a law allowing the temporary closure of foreign broadcasters considered a threat to national security.

The media network at the time accused Netanyahu of waging a "frantic campaign" against it.

"Netanyahu could not find any justifications to offer the world for his ongoing attacks on Al Jazeera and Press Freedom except to present new lies and inflammatory slanders against the Network and the rights of its employees," Al Jazeera said in a statement.