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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem on February 18. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

Israel closing Al Jazeera network

May 5, 2024

By Michael Schwartz, Tim Lister and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

(CNN) — Israel has ordered the closure of Al Jazeera in the country, a move the Qatar-based news network called a “criminal act.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a post on X: “The government headed by me unanimously decided: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel.”

Ofir Gendelman, the prime minister’s spokesperson to the Arab world, said Sunday that the decision would be “implemented immediately.”

In a post on X, Gendelman said that the network’s “broadcast equipment will be confiscated, the channel’s correspondents will be prevented from working, the channel will be removed from cable and satellite television companies, and Al Jazeera’s websites will be blocked on the Internet.”

Israeli cable providers ceased carrying the Al Jazeera networks by late Sunday afternoon.

Gendelman quoted Netanyahu as saying: “Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel’s security and incited IDF soldiers. It is time to expel the mouthpiece of Hamas from our country.”

Video obtained by CNN showed Israeli police accompanied by agents of the Israel Security Agency entering Al Jazeera’s broadcasting position in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Al Jazeera condemned the Israeli cabinet’s decision as a “criminal act,” which it said infringes on the human right to access information.

It continued: “Israel’s suppression of the free press to cover up its crimes by killing and arresting journalists did not deter us from performing our duty. More than 140 Palestinian journalists have been martyred for the sake of the truth since the beginning of the war on Gaza.”

Several of the network’s journalists working in Gaza have been injured or killed since October 7.

Al Jazeera also again denied Israel’s “false allegations regarding our violation of the professional frameworks governing media work,” and called on media and human rights organizations “to condemn the Israeli authorities’ repeated attacks on the press and journalists.”

The move comes a month after Netanyahu vowed to shut down the television channel in the country following the passage of a sweeping law allowing the government to ban foreign networks perceived as posing a threat to national security.

Netanyahu said on X in early April that he intended “to act immediately in accordance with the new law” to stop the outlet’s activity in the country. Netanyahu’s government has long complained about Al Jazeera’s operations, alleging anti-Israeli bias.

In response, Al Jazeera – which has been producing on the ground reporting of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza – slammed the decision and vowed to continue its “bold and professional coverage.”

The new law gave the prime minister and communications minister authority to order the temporary closure of foreign networks operating in Israel – powers that rights groups say could have far-reaching implications on international media coverage of the war in Gaza.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel described the government’s decision as “a dark day for democracy” and “a cause for concern for all supporters of a free press.”

The move comes as negotiators met in Cairo on Saturday, in a bid to secure a ceasefire and hostage deal.

Negotiators have made progress on the technical aspects of a potential deal, but two Israeli sources say it could take a week to finalize the deal itself. Qatar has played a key role in ceasefire negotiations in the on-going war.

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