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Benjamin Netanyahu announces ban on Al Jazeera in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet unanimously decided on Sunday to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel for as long as the war in Gaza continues, citing national security concerns about the Qatari television network.

“The incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel,” Netanyahu posted on social media following the cabinet vote. A government statement said Israel’s communications minister signed orders to “act immediately,” although one lawmaker noted Al Jazeera could still try to block the move in court.

The measure will include closing Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel, confiscating broadcast equipment, cutting it off from cable and satellite companies, and blocking its websites. The decision targets the network’s Israel operations but does not mention its Gaza operations, from where it has reported extensively throughout the ongoing conflict.

Israel accuses the Qatar-funded Al Jazeera of threatening national security through its critical coverage of the military operation in Gaza. The network has previously rejected such accusations, saying the shutdown is an attempt by Israel to silence its reporting on the situation.

Last month, Israel’s parliament ratified a controversial law allowing the temporary closure within Israel of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security. The law permits Netanyahu and his security cabinet to shut Al Jazeera’s Israel offices for an initial period of 45 days, which can be renewed, potentially keeping the closure in force until the end of July or the conclusion of major military operations in Gaza.

Al Jazeera made no immediate comment on Sunday’s decision by the Israeli cabinet. However, the network has been fiercely critical of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, providing round-the-clock coverage from the besieged Palestinian territory.

Qatar, which hosts leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, is currently trying to mediate a ceasefire and hostage release deal that could potentially halt the escalating violence in Gaza. The shutdown of Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing conflict and efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution.

The decision by Netanyahu’s cabinet highlights the ongoing tensions between Israel and the influential Al Jazeera network, which has provided extensive coverage of the Gaza conflict from both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. It also reflects Israel’s concerns about the network’s critical reporting and what they perceive as incitement, which they claim threatens national security amid the ongoing hostilities.

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