Netanyahu’s Cabinet votes to close Al Jazeera offices in Israel after rising tensions

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Netanyahu’s Cabinet votes to close Al Jazeera offices in Israel after rising tensions

(EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts death.) Wael Al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza, center, comforts relatives at the funeral of his son, Al Jazeera journalist Hamza Dahdouh, killed in an Israeli airstrike, in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is focused on accelerating humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and garnering support for post-conflict Gaza’s governance. Photographer: Ahmad Salem/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ahmad Salem | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government has voted unanimously to shut down the local offices of Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Netanyahu announced the decision on X, formerly Twitter, but details on the implications of the step on the channel, when it would go into effect or whether the measure was permanent or temporary were not immediately clear.

There was no immediate comment from the channel headquarters in Doha, Qatar. An Al Jazeera correspondent on its Arabic service said the order would affect the broadcaster’s operations in Israel and in east Jerusalem, where it has been doing live shots for months since the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war in Gaza.

It would not affect Al Jazeera’s operations in the Palestinian territories, the correspondent said.

Israeli media said the vote allows Israel to block the channel from operating in the country for 45 days, according to the decision.

“My government decided unanimously: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will close in Israel,” Netanyahu posted on X. Al Jazeera as vehemently denied that it incites against Israel.

The decision escalated Israel’s long-running feud against Al Jazeera. It also threatened to heighten tensions with Qatar, which owns the channel, at a time when the Doha government is playing a key role in mediation efforts to halt the war in Gaza.

Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against it.

Al Jazeera is one of the few international media outlets to remain in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting bloody scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres. Israel accuses Al Jazeera of collaborating with Hamas.

Al Jazeera, the Doha-based broadcaster funded by Qatar’s government, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While Al Jazeera’s English operation often resembles the programming found on other major broadcast networks, its Arabic arm often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other militant groups in the region. It similarly came under harsh U.S. criticism during America’s occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion toppled director Saddam Hussein.

It remains unclear how such an order would be enforced by Israel.

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