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Israel Shuts Down Al Jazeera Operations In The Country

Above photo: Al Jazeera studio in Doha, Qatar. Wikimedia commons.

The ban comes at a time when Israel prepares to invade Rafah.

Despite serious concerns of the disastrous humanitarian crisis such an invasion would create for the over a million Palestinians trapped there.

Two days after the world commemorated Press Freedom day, Israel ordered the Al Jazeera media network to be shut down, calling it a “threat to national security” on Sunday, May 5.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet unanimously voted to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations almost a month after the Israeli parliament had passed legislation which had given the government the right to shut down any foreign media channel in the country in the name of protecting national security.

Israel had earlier accused Al Jazeera of colluding with Hamas and had also claimed it participated in the October 7 attacks. The Qatar-based media network had denied the allegations calling them false and disgraceful. It had also said that it will hold the Israeli government responsible if any harm comes to its staff in the country following the incitement.

The Netanyahu government also seized all equipment used by the channel to broadcast news in the raids conducted on its office in the occupied East Jerusalem. Shlomo Karhi, Israel’s minister of communication, shared a video of the raid conducted at Al Jazeera’s office on his X page.

Al Jazeera claimed that the local cable operator took the channel off air in the evening.

Al Jazeera issued a statement calling the order of shutting it down a “criminal act” which “violates human rights and basic right to access of information.”

“Israel’s ongoing suppression of free press, seen as an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza strip, stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law. Israel’s direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation and threats will not deter Al Jazeera from its commitment to cover,” the statement said.

Israel Wants To Hide The Scale Of Its Atrocities In Gaza

Several individuals and groups criticized the Israeli government’s decision to shut Al Jazeera. Condemning the Israeli government’s decision, New York based the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) claimed it would set a dangerous precedent for other international media outlets working in Israel.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also criticized the Israeli government’s decision demanding its reversal. “A free and Independent media is essential to ensuring transparency accountability. Now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza,” the UN human rights agency said.

The ban on Al Jazeera comes at a time when Israel has asked Palestinians in parts of Rafah to evacuate implying imminent ground offensive despite appeals of restraint and avoidance of any such move made repeatedly by the world community. Over a million Palestinians are taking shelter in Rafah following the devastation caused by the seven months long war. It is feared that any ground offensive in the densely populated region would cause an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

In the context, CODEPINK called the ban on Al Jazeera another “brazen attempt to cover up genocidal crimes Israel is committing against Palestinians.”

Israel had already banned all foreign journalists from reporting from Gaza since the early days of the war.

Al Jazeera was the only major international media network using the local journalists to get ground reports from Gaza where reports estimate that somewhere between 120-140 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces in the last seven months.

Israel has killed over 35,000 Palestinians and injured over 78,000 in its war in Gaza since October 7.

Even before the present war in Gaza, Al Jazeera and its journalists have been repeatedly targeted by the Israeli armed forces.

Israeli forces bombed the building where Al Jazeera office was located in Gaza during May 2021 attacks.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a senior Al Jazeera journalist was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in May 2022 when she was covering an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp.

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