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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed “immediate action” to close Al Jazeera in Israel, after the Israeli parliament passed a law granting him powers to shut down foreign broadcast networks deemed a “security risk”.

The law escalates a long-running dispute between the Israeli government and the satellite channel, which Netanyahu’s allies say has close ties to Hamas in Gaza — a claim Al Jazeera denies.

In a post on X, Netanyahu said Al Jazeera had “harmed Israel’s security, taken part in the October 7 massacre, incited against Israeli soldiers”.

“The time has come to remove Hamas’s mouthpiece from our country,” he wrote. “The terror channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel.”

In response Al Jazeera said that Netanyahu’s statements “are lies that incite against the safety of our journalists around the world”.

“The network stresses that this latest measure comes as part of a series of systematic Israeli attacks to silence Al Jazeera,” the media group said in a statement.

“Al Jazeera reiterates that such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage, and reserves the right to pursue every legal step.”

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the move was “concerning”. “The United States supports the critically important work of journalists around the world, and that includes those who are reporting in the conflict in Gaza,” she told reporters.

The law allows the government to close Al Jazeera’s local offices and confiscate its equipment, while banning local cable and satellite TV companies from carrying the channel and blocking its website in Israel. A closure would last for 45 days, extendable by another 45 days, and the law will remain in force until the end of July or the end of major military operations in Gaza.

Carlos Martínez de la Serna, programme director for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said the organisation was “deeply concerned” by the law, saying it would “also jeopardise other foreign media outlets operating in Israel”.

He said the move “contribute[d] to a climate of self-censorship and hostility towards the press, a trend that has escalated since the Israel-Gaza war”.

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s expert on Israel-Palestine, said the law represented an “alarming escalation” of Israel’s efforts to “clamp down on voices critical of its human rights abuses against Palestinians”.

Founded in Doha in 1996 and funded in part by the Qatari government, Al Jazeera says it broadcasts to more than 150 countries and is available in more than 430mn homes. It is one of the few media outlets with reporters on the ground in Gaza.

Israeli criticism of Al Jazeera has stepped up in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel that, according to Israeli officials, killed 1,200 people and triggered the war in Gaza.

Ministers said after the attack that they would seek to shut down Al Jazeera’s local operations, accusing the channel of pro-Hamas incitement and of exposing Israeli soldiers to attack.

But the following month Israel temporarily abandoned those plans, reportedly fearing it would undermine mediation efforts by Qatar to secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s relationship with Al Jazeera has long been difficult. In 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Palestinian-American journalist working for the network, was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Jenin. The Israeli military later acknowledged there was a “high possibility” that one of its soldiers unintentionally killed her.

Since the war in Gaza broke out in October, Israel has accused journalists working for the broadcaster of assisting or even commanding Hamas units in their fight against Israel — a suggestion the channel has vehemently denied.

In February, one of the network’s reporters Ismail Abu Omar and cameraman Ahmad Matar were injured in a drone strike near Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town. The broadcaster condemned what it called “deliberate targeting” of the journalists by Israeli forces.

At the time, a spokesman for the Israeli army claimed that Abu Omar served as a deputy company commander in Hamas’s Eastern Khan Younis Battalion, as well as working for Al Jazeera. He also said that on the morning of October 7 he infiltrated Israel and filmed inside Kibbutz Nir Oz, one of the places Hamas attacked.

Shortly after that, Al Jazeera issued a statement “condemn[ing] the accusations against its journalists and recalls Israel’s long record of lies and fabrication of evidence through which it seeks to hide its heinous crimes”. Al Jazeera said its employment policies “stipulate that employees are not to engage in any political affiliations that may affect their professionalism”.

Abu Omar was not the only Al Jazeera casualty of the war. In December, its Arabic journalist Samer Abudaqa was killed and his colleague Wael Dahdouh, the network’s Gaza bureau chief, was wounded in an Israeli attack in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

The CPJ said at least 95 journalists and media workers had been killed in Gaza since the war began. Gazan health officials estimate the overall death toll to be more than 32,000.

The government in Qatar declined to comment.

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