Israel votes to block Al Jazeera in the country

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government has voted unanimously to shut down the Al Jazeera offices in the country.

The extraordinary move is believed to be the first time Israel has ever shuttered a foreign news outlet, although its government has taken action against individual reporters in the past.

According to a statement from Netanyahu's office, the decision goes into effect immediately. It includes closing the channel’s offices in Israel, confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel’s reports and blocking its websites, among other measures, the statement said.

Al Jazeera went off Israel’s main cable provider "Hot" in the hours after the order. However, its website and streaming links across multiple online platforms still operated Sunday.

Israeli media said the vote allows Israel to block the channel from operating in the country for 45 days, according to the decision.

It would reportedly not affect Al Jazeera’s operations in the Palestinian territories.

Who owns Al Jazeera?

Al Jazeera is owned and funded by Qatar’s government.

Its headquarters are in the Qatari capital of Doha. 

Al Jazeera issued a statement vowing it will "pursue all available legal channels through international legal institutions in its quest to protect both its rights and journalists, as well as the public’s right to information."

"Israel’s ongoing suppression of the free press, seen as an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza Strip, stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law," the network said. "Israel’s direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation and threats will not deter Al Jazeera from its commitment to cover, whilst more than 140 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the beginning of the war on Gaza."

Why did Israel ban Al Jazeera?


FILE - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference on November 21, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

In short: Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias and collaborating with Hamas. 

Relations took a major downturn nearly two years ago when Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.

Those relations further deteriorated following the outbreak of Israel’s war against Hamas on Oct. 7.

Al Jazeera is one of the few international media outlets to remain in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting bloody scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres. 

Netanyahu’s latest statement on the vote called the outlet a "mouthpiece" for Hamas, and said it was time to remove it from the country. 

The statement from Netanyahu’s office said that under a law passed last month, the government can take action against a foreign channel seen as "harming the country."

While Al Jazeera’s English operation often resembles the programming found on other major broadcast networks, its Arabic arm often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other militant groups in the region. It similarly came under harsh U.S. criticism during America’s occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

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Gaza ceasefire talks

The vote comes as Qatar is helping to broker a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Qatar has had strained ties with Netanyahu in particular since he made comments suggesting that Qatar is not exerting enough pressure on Hamas to prompt it to relent in its terms for a truce deal. Qatar hosts Hamas leaders in exile.

The sides appear to be close to striking a deal, but multiple previous rounds of talks have ended with no agreement.

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.