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Israeli Government Unanimously Votes to Shut Down Al Jazeera’s Offices in Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that his government has unanimously voted to shut down the local offices of Al Jazeera, a Qatar-owned broadcaster. The decision comes at a time when cease-fire negotiations with Hamas, mediated by Qatar, are gaining momentum. The move includes closing Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel, confiscating its broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of its reports, and blocking its websites. Netanyahu stated that Al Jazeera reporters have harmed Israel’s security and incited against soldiers, calling for the removal of what he referred to as the “Hamas mouthpiece” from the country.

This decision marks the first time Israel has shut down a foreign news outlet, although it has taken action against individual reporters in the past. The government cites a law passed last month that allows it to take action against foreign channels seen as harming the country. Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar, had no immediate comment on the matter. However, Al Jazeera correspondents provided their understanding of how the decision would impact the channel. An Arabic service correspondent stated that the order would affect the broadcaster’s operations in Israel and East Jerusalem but not in the Palestinian territories. Another correspondent on Al Jazeera’s English channel mentioned that the order prohibits the channel from holding offices or operating in Israel.

This move has the potential to escalate tensions with Qatar, as the Doha government plays a significant role in mediation efforts to halt the war in Gaza, along with Egypt and the United States. Qatar’s ties with Netanyahu have been strained, particularly since his comments suggesting that Qatar is not exerting enough pressure on Hamas to reach a truce deal. The sides appear to be close to an agreement, but previous rounds of talks have ended without one. Cabinet members from the National Unity party criticized the timing of Israel’s decision, stating that it may sabotage efforts to finalize negotiations.

Israel has had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias. Relations deteriorated further after the outbreak of Israel’s war against Hamas in October 2027. An Al Jazeera correspondent was killed during an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank, and in December, an Israeli strike killed an Al Jazeera cameraman. Israel threatened to revoke an Al Jazeera reporter’s credentials in 2017 after an interview surfaced in which the reporter expressed support for Palestinian “resistance.” The Israeli government has taken measures against media outlets in the past, including revoking press cards issued to individual correspondents over their coverage.

Al Jazeera is one of the few international media outlets that remained in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals while accusing Israel of massacres. Israel, on the other hand, accuses Al Jazeera of collaborating with Hamas. The broadcaster, funded by Qatar’s government, has faced closure or blockage by other Middle Eastern governments, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. These countries boycotted Doha during a political dispute that ended in 2021.

Sunday’s development brings to mind Egypt’s shutdown of Al Jazeera after the country’s 2013 military takeover following mass protests against President Mohammed Morsi. The channel extensively covered the protests of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, angering Egypt’s military government. Egyptian security forces even raided a luxury hotel operated by Al Jazeera, leading to the arrest of its correspondents. The international community widely criticized Egypt for the incident, and eventually, three journalists who received 10-year prison sentences were released in 2015.

In conclusion, Israel’s decision to shut down Al Jazeera’s local offices is a significant development in its ongoing feud with the broadcaster. The move comes at a crucial time when cease-fire negotiations with Hamas are underway. While Israel accuses Al Jazeera of harming its security and acting as a mouthpiece for Hamas, critics argue that the decision may hinder efforts to reach a truce deal. Al Jazeera has faced backlash from various governments in the Middle East, with some accusing it of bias and supporting terrorist groups. The closure of Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel is reminiscent of Egypt’s actions against the broadcaster in 2013.

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