Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel said on Sunday it planned to close the offices of Al-Jazeera in the Jewish state, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Arab satellite news broadcaster of incitement.
Netanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al-Jazeera expelled amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
“Al-Jazeera has become the main tool of Daesh (the Islamic State group), Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran,” Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, a member of the Druze community from Netanyahu’s Likud party, told a news conference.
He accused the Qatar-based broadcaster of “inciting violence which has provoked losses among the best of our sons”, referring to two Druze policemen who were killed in a July 14 attack near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu tweeted his congratulations to Kara “who on my instructions took concrete steps to end Al-Jazeera’s incitement” in Israel.
An official at Al-Jazeera in Doha said the channel “deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East” and called the move “dangerous”.
The official, who declined to be named, said the broadcaster would “follow up the subject through appropriate legal and judicial procedures”.
Israel’s communications ministry said “nearly all countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, have concluded that Al-Jazeera incites terrorism and religious extremism.”
It said it had become “ridiculous that the channel continued to broadcast from Israel”.
– Credentials revoked –
Regional kingpin Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of fostering extremism and later issuing 13 demands, including Al-Jazeera’s closure.
The Al-Jazeera official said Sunday he was “surprised” at Israel’s move, and defended the channel’s “professional and objective” coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The channel’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Walid al-Omari, said his office had not received any official notification that it would be forced to close.
Speaking on Al-Jazeera, he said the move was related to internal Israeli politics.
“Netanyahu wants to distract attention from issues he is facing,” he said, in an apparent reference to ongoing investigations into graft cases allegedly involving the premier.
The Israeli ministry said it would cut the channel’s cable and satellite connections and demand that Al-Jazeera journalists be stripped of their credentials.
The closure of Al-Jazeera’s…