Israel to close Al Jazeera offices, take network off-air

Employees of Qatar based news network and TV channel Al Jazeera are seen at their Jerusalem office

"The collusion by Netanyahu with his Arab autocratic neighbors leaves little doubt that free independent media and truth are ready to be sacrificed as collateral damage in the power politics of the region", Al Jazeera's Jerusalem bureau chief, Walid Omary, wrote in an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israeli officials have long accused Al-Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state.

"We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel's citizens, and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera", Kara said.

While the proposal will not take immediate effect, Kara confirmed that both the Arabic and English versions of the news channel will be shuttered once the proposal is passed in the Knesset (Israel's parliament). Israel wants to close the broadcaster's offices in the country.

That includes Al Jazeera's reporting of the recent protests over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara announced the measures Sunday at a news conference.

Kara said he would ask the Government Press Office to revoke the accreditation of Al Jazeera's journalists in Israel, where it has about 30 staff. Cable and satellite providers have expressed their willingness to turn off its broadcasts, he said.


"[We] will follow up the subject through appropriate legal and judicial procedures".

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced in late July that it wanted to expel Al-Jazeera, which is accused of stirring up tensions around the holy sites in Jerusalem.

"Lately, nearly all countries in our region determined that al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization", Kara said.

Saudi Arabia leads four Arab countries, including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which broke ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of fostering extremism and who later demanded Al-Jazeera's closure.

"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".

"Our coverage of events in the palestinian territories is professional and objective, and the Israelis have acknowledged a couple of times because we are keen to present the views and their opposites", he said.

The network's offices in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank city of Rammallah, would not be affected by the current Israeli move.

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