Israeli government says it will ban Al Jazeera

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Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-DahdouhImage source, Getty Images

The Israeli parliament has approved a law giving the government the power to ban broadcasts of TV channels including Al Jazeera, the Qatari-owned network.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would “act immediately” to close the network’s local office.

The US expressed concern over the move.

With foreign journalists banned from entering Gaza, Al Jazeera staff based in the strip have been some of the only reporters able to cover the war on the ground.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, approved the bill allowing foreign networks considered a threat to national security to be “temporarily” banned.

The ban would be in place for a period of 45 days at a time, which could be renewed. The law would stay in force until July or until the end of significant fighting in Gaza.

“Al Jazeera will no longer be broadcast from Israel,” Mr Netanyahu wrote on Twitter/X, calling the network a “terrorist channel”.

For years, Israeli officials have accused the network of anti-Israeli bias. But their criticisms of the broadcaster have intensified since the Hamas attacks of 7 October. Authorities claim it has close links with Hamas, which Al Jazeera vehemently denies.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The channel has accused Israel of deliberately targeting its staff. Journalists including Hamza Al-Dahdouh, the son of Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh, have been killed by Israeli strikes. Israel denies targeting journalists.

Qatar, where Al Jazeera is headquartered, is mediating talks between Israel and Hamas over the now almost six-month long conflict. Previous negotiations mediated by Qatar led to a temporary ceasefire and the release of 105 Israeli hostages.

It is not clear, though, if the move by Israel will affect the ceasefire talks.

Israel has previously banned a smaller Lebanese channel, Al Mayadeen, from operating in the country.

“If it is true, a move like this is concerning,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about the proposed ban.

The war began when Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. About 130 of the hostages remain in captivity, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead.

More than 32,800 Palestinians have been killed and 75,000 injured in Gaza since Israel launched its military campaign, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. It says 70% of those killed were women and children.

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