Israel has ordered the closure of the Arabic TV channel Al-Jazeera in the country. The government has unanimously decided to ban the television company’s activities in Israel, the government press office announced on Sunday. “Al-Jazeera correspondents have harmed Israel’s security and incited Israeli soldiers,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the statement. It is time to “throw Hamas’ mouthpiece out of the country.” The broadcaster condemned the decision and announced that it would take action against the move.

Meanwhile, Israeli police units searched the Al Jazeera office in the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem in the afternoon, as several Israeli media outlets reported. Television equipment was confiscated. Israeli cable and satellite network providers also removed the station from their services, Al Jazeera reported.

Israel accuses broadcaster of bias

Israel accuses the broadcaster of biased reporting on the Gaza war. Netanyahu had already announced the closure of the TV network’s facilities operating in Israel more than a month ago. Parliament had previously approved the so-called Al Jazeera law. This allows foreign TV channels to be closed if they are classified as a risk to state security.

Al-Jazeera has reported extensively on the catastrophic situation in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war, showing images of death and destruction rarely seen on Israeli TV channels. The channel also regularly shows videos from Hamas’ military wing of attacks on Israeli soldiers.

Al-Jazeera speaks of criminal act

The broadcaster rejected the allegations of bias. “The Al Jazeera media network strongly condemns this criminal act, which violates human rights and the fundamental right of access to information,” the broadcaster said on Sunday. We will take all possible measures against the move and defend the rights of the station and its employees.

The Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from the Islamist Hamas and other groups carried out in Israel on October 7th last year. Israel responded with massive air strikes and a ground offensive.

Al-Jazeera was founded in Doha in 1996 and was considered one of the first Arabic TV channels to also publish critical reports about the region. He quickly gained popularity in the Arab world. Qatar itself was one of Hamas’s most important financial supporters before the Gaza war broke out. Top representatives of the Islamist organization also live in Doha.

Gantz: “Terrible timing” of the closure

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi signed an order to close the station immediately after the government decision. It stipulates that offices in Israel can be closed, broadcasting equipment confiscated, the channel removed from the programming of cable and satellite television providers and its website blocked.

Benny Gantz’s National Union party, which is represented in the Israeli security cabinet, agreed with the closure, but criticized the timing. The center-right party explained that it was “terrible timing” that could torpedo the current indirect negotiations with Hamas about a release of hostages and a ceasefire in the Gaza war. The US government reacted irritably right from the start on the plans of the close ally. A US State Department spokesman said it supports a free press around the world. The federal government had also criticized the so-called Al Jazeera law. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said a good month ago: “A free and diverse press landscape is the cornerstone of a liberal democracy.”