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

The move follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for the station's offices to be shut down, accusing it of inflaming tensions around Al-Aqsa mosque, the Jerusalem holy site where Palestinians staged an nearly two-week protest last month against Israeli security measures installed after a deadly shootout.

"It is a shocking statement, and it completely undermines Israel's claims to be the only democracy in the region, because it gets to the heart of one of the most important institutions of democracy", he said to Al Jazeera.

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

Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara announced the plan to close Al-Jazeera at a Jerusalem news conference, accusing it of being a "tool" of the so-called Islamic State group, Shi'ite Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

"I congratulate minister Kara, who upon my instructions, took practical steps today to stop Al Jazeera's incitement-filled activities", Netanyahu wote on twitter.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia and Jordan shut down Al Jazeera bureaus as part fo a economic campaign against Qatar.

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Witnesses cited by the agency said Sharaf was shot in the neck, although the precise circumstances have not been confirmed. Early Friday, three Palestinian men were shot dead and hundreds of others were injured in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera senior political analyst, said the latest move by Israel shows a "synergy" of "dictatorships" in the Arab world and "dictatorship of military occupation in Palestine".

The Al Jazeera official defended its coverage, saying it was "professional and objective". "The Al-Jazeera channel continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount", Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post, referring to the Haram Al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. It said it had become "ridiculous that the channel continued to broadcast from Israel".

The Israel government is planning to take action against Al Jazeera's local offices in Israel and wants to revoke the licenses provided to its journalists.

According to Al Jazeera, the Israeli authorities had also sought to shut down the network's satellite transmission into the country.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories for worldwide news organizations, said the move "is certainly a cause for concern".

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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