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Israeli Government To Halt Al Jazeera Broadcasts

The Israeli parliament has passed a law granting the government authority to prohibit the airing of TV channels such as Al Jazeera, the Qatari-owned network.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to “act immediately” to shut down the network’s local office.

The US has voiced apprehension regarding this move.

With foreign journalists barred from entering Gaza, Al Jazeera staff stationed in the area have been among the few reporters able to provide on-the-ground coverage of the conflict.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has endorsed a bill permitting the temporary banning of foreign networks deemed a threat to national security.

The ban would be implemented for periods of 45 days, with the possibility of extension. The legislation would remain effective until July, or until significant hostilities in Gaza cease.

“Al Jazeera will no longer be broadcast from Israel,” stated Mr. Netanyahu on Twitter, labelling the network a “terrorist channel.”

Israeli officials have long accused Al Jazeera of displaying anti-Israeli bias, with criticisms escalating since the Hamas attacks on October 7. Authorities allege close ties between the network and Hamas, a claim Al Jazeera vehemently refutes.

Al Jazeera responded, asserting that “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.”

The channel has accused Israel of deliberately targeting its staff, citing instances such as the death of journalist Hamza Al-Dahdouh, son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh, in Israeli strikes. Israel denies targeting journalists.

Qatar, Al Jazeera’s base, is facilitating negotiations between Israel and Hamas amidst the nearly six-month-long conflict. Prior talks mediated by Qatar resulted in a temporary ceasefire and the release of 105 Israeli hostages.

The potential impact of Israel’s move on ceasefire talks remains uncertain.

Previously, Israel banned the smaller Lebanese channel, Al Mayadeen, from operating within the country.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre expressed concern, stating, “If it is true, a move like this is concerning.”

The conflict began when Hamas militants entered southern Israel on October 7 of last year, resulting in casualties and hostages. Palestinian casualties in Gaza have been significant, with many being women and children.

Al Jazeera, launched in 1996, has been instrumental in airing criticisms of governments and rulers in the Middle East. However, some governments, including those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, have objected to its coverage and either shut it down or blocked its access. Al Jazeera claims to have been the first Arabic channel to feature Israeli politicians and commentators on air.

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