Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to close the al-Jazeera offices in Jerusalem, after accusing the Qatar-based television news network of “inciting” violence in the city.
Tensions in Jerusalem have escalated in recent days, as Palestinians resisted Israel’s heightened security measures near the holy site known as Temple Mount in the Jewish tradition, and known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Quds al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem).
On Wednesday 26 July, Netanyahu posted comments to his Facebook page that have since been accused of libel, attacking the network of “inciting violence” and maintaining a biased coverage of the issue.
The Facebook post reads, “I have spoken several times to law-enforcement authorities demanding the closure of al-Jazeera’s offices in Jerusalem. If this does not happen because of legal interpretation, I will work to enact the required legislation to expel al-Jazeera from Israel.”
Israel’s introduction of metal detectors outside the holy site provoked deadly clashes. The government announced the measures were necessary in order to prevent weapons entering the holy grounds, following the killing of two Israeli policemen.
Four Palestinians were killed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during protests on Friday and Saturday, while three Israelis were killed by a Palestinian claiming retribution.
On Tuesday, 25 July, Israel removed the metal detectors, saying it planned on replacing them with less obtrusive surveillance.
The Doha-based media network responded to Netanyahu’s comments by issuing a press release on Thursday 27 July, “[al-Jazeera] denounces such arbitrary accusations and hostile statements…Netanyahu’s comments mark yet another episode of the ongoing vicious attack against al-Jazeera,” the statement read, also referring to calls by Saudi-led bloc boycotting Qatar to close the network.
“Al-Jazeera stresses that it would take all necessary legal measures in case they act on their threat…The network moreover reiterates that it will continue covering the news and events of the occupied Palestinian territories, and elsewhere, both professionally and objectively.”
Al-Jazeera has also faced government censure in neighbouring Egypt when in 2014, the Arab state jailed three al-Jazeera reporters for seven years and closed the network’s offices in Cairo. Two have been released but a third, Mohamed Fahmy remains imprisoned.
Egypt, alongside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has called for Qatar to close al-Jazeera.