Israel says it plans to close Al Jazeera’s offices

Israel said on Sunday it planned to close the local offices of Al Jazeera, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Arab satellite news broadcaster of incitement behind deadly terror attacks.

Israel is to join regional Arab states that have already shut the station after accusing the broadcaster of inciting violence, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said.

Kara, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said he wants to revoke press cards from Al Jazeera reporters, which in effect would prevent them from working in Israel.

Kara added he has asked cable and satellite networks to block their transmissions and is seeking legislation to ban them altogether. No timetable for the measures was given.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia have recently closed Al Jazeera’s local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

“Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,” Kara said. “And when we see that all these countries have determined as fact that Al Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State [group], Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and we are the only one who have not determined that, then something ludicrous is happening here,” he said, adding that the channel “caused us to lose the lives of the best of our sons.”

Minister of Communications Ayoub Kara holds a press conference on moves to shut down the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem, August 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al Jazeera expelled amid tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

“The Al Jazeera channel continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Ministers office in Jerusalem on July 30, 2017. (Ohad Zweigenberg/Flash90)

Protests erupted at the contentious site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), after Israel last month installed new security measures including metal detectors, following the killing of two Israeli policemen by three Israeli Arab attackers who shot them using weapons smuggled onto the holy site.

“I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said in calling for the channel’s expulsion.

“If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al Jazeera from Israel.”

Israeli officials have long accused Al Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has likened its coverage to “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda.

Doha-based Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though its Arab and English channels immediately reported on the news.

Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab satellite network funded by the Qatari government, has been targeted by Arab nations now isolating Qatar as part of a months-long political dispute over Doha’s politics and alleged support for extremists.

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