A man manoeuvres media equipment following an Israeli police raid on an Al Jazeera de facto office at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

JERUSALEM: Al Jazeera network went off the air in Israel Sunday, AFP correspondents said, after the government announced a decision to shut the Qatar-based broadcaster’s operations following a long-running feud.

Hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government announced the closure order for an initial period of 45 days, the screen on Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels went black with a message in Hebrew saying they had “been suspended in Israel”, the correspondents said.

“The incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel,” Netanyahu posted on social media earlier following the unanimous cabinet vote to shut the channel.

While condemning the decision, Al Jazeera rejected accusations that it harmed Israel's security as a "dangerous and ridiculous lie" that puts its journalists at risk and said that it reserved the right to "pursue every legal step .

"We condemn and denounce this criminal act by Israel that violates the human right to access information," Al Jazeera said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, in Arabic.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Later, Israeli police raided a Jerusalem hotel room used by Al Jazeera as its de facto office.

Video circulated online showed plainclothes officers dismantling camera equipment in a hotel room. The Al Jazeera source said the hotel was in East Jerusalem.

Earlier an Israeli statement said the decision will include closing Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel, confiscating broadcast equipment, cutting off the channel from cable and satellite companies and blocking its websites.

Also read

Walid Al Omari, head of Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, reacted to the decision by saying it followed “a campaign in search of easy victories by ministers on (Israel’s) extreme right”.

He said the broadcaster had been informed of the “closure of the offices of Al Jazeera Channel operating within the borders of Israel”, and the confiscation of its broadcasting devices.

The broadcasting to Al Jazeera’s websites would also be restricted, he said, adding that the curbs would not legally apply to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Neither will it apply to the Gaza Strip, from where Al Jazeera still broadcasts live on Israel’s war with Hamas.

The network is funded by the Qatari government and has been fiercely critical of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, from where it has reported around the clock throughout the war. The Israeli statement did not mention Al Jazeera’s Gaza operations.

Long running feud

Sunday’s decision comes after Israel’s parliament last month overwhelmingly passed a new national security law granting top ministers the power to ban broadcasts by foreign channels deemed a national security threat and to shut their offices.

Shortly after that law passed, Netanyahu singled out Al Jazeera, which bills itself as the “first independent news channel in the Arab world”.

Netanyahu’s government has had a long-running feud with Al Jazeera that predates Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

The channel broadcasts in Arabic and English.

The feud has ramped up amid Israeli criticism of the channel’s coverage of the war that began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,683 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

At least 97 journalists and media workers have been killed since the war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, marking “the deadliest period for journalists” since 1992 when the group began gathering data.

In January, Israel said an Al Jazeera staff journalist and a freelancer killed in an air strike in Gaza were “terror operatives”.

The following month, it accused another journalist with the channel who was wounded in a separate strike of being a “deputy company commander” with Hamas.

Al Jazeera has fiercely denied Israel’s allegations and accused it of systematically targeting its employees in the Gaza Strip.

The law allows Netanyahu and his security cabinet to shut the network’s offices in Israel for 45 days, a period that can be renewed, so it could stay in force until the end of July or until the end of major military operations in Gaza.

Qatar, which hosts Hamas leaders, is trying to mediate a ceasefire and hostage release deal that could halt the Gaza war.