Netanyahu backs push to shut down Al Jazeera's Israel offices

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would work to close the Jerusalem offices Al Jazeera, accusing the television news network of inciting violence in the city.

"Al Jazeera deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East and considers what it has done is unsafe", an unnamed official with Al Jazeera told the AFP.

He said the broadcaster "will follow up the subject through appropriate legal and judicial procedures".

Israel's ministry of communications says it plans to close the pan-Arab Al Jazeera news network and ban its journalists from reporting in the country.

The events were widely reported, including by Al Jazeera.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia have closed Al Jazeera's local offices, while the channel and its sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

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.

"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.

There was no immediate comment from Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar but journalists working for the station in Israel said they did not expect imminent moves against them. Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history. The site saw violent clashes in recent weeks. A Palestinian also broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and stabbed four Israelis, killing three of them. After protests by Palestinians, the Israeli government removed the metal detectors and other security methods.

Kara claimed that such extreme measures are ostensibly meant to improve journalistic practice in the country by creating "a situation that channels based in Israel will report objectively". Among the steps to be taken include closing the news agency's offices in Israel, revoking its reporters of their press passes and blacking out satellite broadcasts. Under a decades-old agreement, only Muslims are allowed to pray inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, although anyone can visit, including Jews.

  • Jon Douglas