Israel to ‘close’ Al Jazeera channel in the country – Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his government has decided to shut down the Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, with which his administration has had a long-running feud.

The government “unanimously decided: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel”, Netanyahu said on X, formerly Twitter.

“There will be no freedom of speech for the Hamas trumpets in Israel,” Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said in a separate joint statement with Netanyahu.

“Al Jazeera will be closed immediately and the equipment will be confiscated.”

Karhi issued an order to seize devices “used to deliver the channel’s content”, including editing and routing equipment, cameras, microphones, servers and laptops, as well as wireless transmission equipment and some cell phones.

Walid Al-Omari, head of Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, reacted to the decision by saying it followed “a campaign in search of easy victories by ministers on (Israel’s) extreme right”.

He said the broadcaster had been informed of the “closure of the offices of Al Jazeera Channel operating within the borders of Israel”, and the confiscation of its broadcasting devices.

The broadcasting to Al Jazeera’s websites would also be restricted, he said, adding that the curbs would not legally apply to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Neither will it apply to the Gaza Strip, from where Al Jazeera still broadcasts live on Israel’s war with Hamas.

Sunday’s decision comes after Israel’s parliament last month overwhelmingly passed a new national security law granting top ministers the power to ban broadcasts by foreign channels deemed a national security threat and to shut their offices.

Shortly after that law passed, Netanyahu singled out Al Jazeera, which bills itself as the “first independent news channel in the Arab world”.

Netanyahu’s government has had a long-running feud with Al Jazeera that predates Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

The channel broadcasts in Arabic and English.

The feud has ramped up amid Israeli criticism of the channel’s coverage of the war that began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,683 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

At least 97 journalists and media workers have been killed since the war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, marking “the deadliest period for journalists” since 1992 when the group began gathering data.

In January, Israel said an Al Jazeera staff journalist and a freelancer killed in an air strike in Gaza were “terror operatives”.

The following month, it accused another journalist with the channel who was wounded in a separate strike of being a “deputy company commander” with Hamas.

Al Jazeera has fiercely denied Israel’s allegations and accused it of systematically targeting its employees in the Gaza Strip.