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Netanyahu revives push to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel

Netanyahu called for Knesset to pass legislation this evening to allow him to ‘immediately’ close the outlet in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revived a push to close down Al Jazeera in Israel.

The Israeli leader demanded on Monday that his coalition government pass legislation in the Knesset that would allow senior ministers to shut down foreign news networks deemed a security risk.

Netanyahu, who has long sought to shutter broadcasts from the Qatari-based media outlet, promised to “immediately act to close Al Jazeera” following the law’s adoption, according to a statement from his Likud party.

The bill, passed in a first reading in February, would give the prime minister and the communications minister the authority to order the closure of foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if it is believed that they pose “harm to the state’s security”.

Likud officials have been instructed to make sure that the Knesset passes a second and third reading of the legislation on Monday evening.

The revived push comes as Netanyahu faces huge protests against his handling of Israel’s war with the Palestinian group Hamas.

Long campaign

The return of the legislation to the Israeli parliament comes nearly five months after Israel said it would block Lebanese outlet Al Mayadeen.

With the start of the war in October, Israel’s government had passed wartime regulations allowing it to temporarily close foreign media deemed a threat to its national interests with the consent of the courts.

It refrained from shuttering Al Jazeera at the same time. However, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said at the time that he hoped the measures would be used against Qatar-owned Al Jazeera.

One of the few international media channels to broadcast live from Gaza during Israel’s ongoing war in the besieged enclave, Karhi accused the outlet of pro-Hamas bias and incitement against Israel.

Israel has often lashed out at Al Jazeera, which has offices in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. In May 2022, Israeli forces shot dead senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin.

A United Nations-commissioned report concluded that Israeli forces used “lethal force without justification” in the killing, violating her “right to life”.

Amid the war in Gaza, several of the channel’s journalists and their family members have died under Israel’s bombardment.

On October 25, an air raid killed the family of Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, including his wife, son, daughter, grandson and at least eight other relatives.

The move from the Netanyahu government also comes amid widespread criticism of the Israeli PM over the security failure of the October 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel.

Nearly 1,140 people were killed and about 250 captives taken to Gaza, according to Israel.

Netanyahu’s retaliatory war on Gaza has killed at least 32,782 people, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people gathered outside the Israeli parliament building in Jerusalem in the largest antigovernment demonstration since the start of the war.

Protesters on Sunday demanded the government secure a ceasefire deal that would free the captives held by Hamas, and called for early elections.

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