Israel shuts down news agency in Ramallah, detains journalists

Published March 11th, 2016 - 08:45 GMT
Israeli soldiers on patrol. (AFP/File)
Israeli soldiers on patrol. (AFP/File)

Israeli forces during predawn raids on Friday ordered the closure of Falastin al-Yawm (Palestine Today) and TransMedia Production Company in the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah.

Locals told Ma'an that forces stormed the media outlets' headquarters in al-Bireh and detained two journalists, confiscated property, and delivered military orders for the offices to be shut down.

The journalists were identified as Muhammad Amro from Hebron and Shbeib Shbeib from Burqa near Nablus. Both were taken to the Israeli miltiary base in the nearby illegal settlement of Beit El.

Israeli forces also detained head of the Falastin al-Yawm Faruq Elayyat from his home in Birzeit, a town near Ramallah.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an the closure order was issued against the media outlets owner for "incitement," adding that the station was "associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, an illegal terror organization."

The raid was carried out through a joint operation between the Israeli military and Israel's security agency Shin Bet, the spokesperson said, confirming that technical equipment and broadcast equipment had been confiscated.

The spokesperson was unable to confirm if the closure was permanent or temporary.

The Israeli authorities shut down a number of Palestinian news agencies last November also on the grounds of "incitement against Israel" following an increase in unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Palestinian government denounced the closures at the time, describing them as violation of international law.

Secretary-general of the Palestinian cabinet, Ali Abu Diak, said at the time that the attack was part of Israel's policy to "oppress the voice of Palestinian rights" and to prevent publication of the truth about "the ongoing ugly crimes Israel is committing against the Palestinian people."

While Israeli leadership has repeatedly slammed Palestinian officials and media for inciting the public to carry out attacks on Israelis, Palestinians have pointed instead to Israel's occupation and ongoing settlement program, no prospect of a political solution, and a deep sense of frustration and despair.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the recent wave of attacks, but said that Israeli security measures were failing to "address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians -- especially young people."

He added: "As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism."

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