Security personnel at the entrance to Al Arabiya’s office in Beirut yesterday after the shutdown. Image Credit: AFP

Beirut: The Saudi-owned television news channel Al Arabiya has shut its offices in Lebanon and dismissed 27 employees, two of its journalists said on Friday, in a sudden move that comes amid political tensions between Riyadh and Beirut.

The Beirut offices of Al Arabiya and its sister channel Al Hadath, which offers extensive coverage of political news, have been closed and they no longer have any correspondents in Lebanon, a spokesman said.

Saudi Arabia cut $3 billion (Dh11 billion) in military aid to Lebanon over the Lebanese government’s posturing following an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January.

The Gulf state interpreted Lebanon’s lack of public solidarity as a sign that it had become beholden to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival Iran.

“We were informed that the offices have been shut and that 27 employees have been fired,” one Al Arabiya journalist said.

A statement from the channel confirmed that its Beirut office had been shut, describing the move as a restructuring brought about by “challenges on the ground” and its concern for the safety of its employees. It said it would nonetheless “continue to closely cover Lebanese affairs”.

The channel said it would help employees affected by the decision to find jobs elsewhere with Al Arabiya or its providers.

Those dismissed would be given “their full legitimate rights” and “other exceptional grants”.

Al Arabiya, one of the main Arabic language broadcasters in the Middle East, is part of the Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC).