Israel brands Hamas TV channel terrorist organisation


Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu designated Al-Aqsa television channel of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas a "terrorist organisation" on Wednesday.

Netanyahu, who is also defence minister, "signed an order declaring the Hamas Al-Aqsa television channel to be a terrorist organisation", the premier's office said.

It said the decision was made on the advice of Israeli security services, which were said to have discovered Hamas's "use of the Al-Aqsa satellite channel to recruit militants to its ranks".

Israel, along with the United States, European Union and other powers, brands Hamas a terrorist organisation.

Hamas, which does not recognise Israel, took power in 2007 in the Gaza Strip, and the territory has been subjected to a rigorous Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas and its allies since 2008, with a tense ceasefire currently in place.

During a flare-up in November, Israel destroyed the offices of Al-Aqsa in Gaza City, though the channel has continued to broadcast.

Ibrahim Daher, general manager of Al-Aqsa TV, condemned what he called a "dangerous decision" that could endanger his staff.

"We will work to bring cases in local and international courts and call on international organisations to highlight this new crime against media freedom," he told AFP.

In mid-February, Israel's Shin Bet security service accused Hamas of using agents inside the channel to recruit militants in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, including using the channel to communicate with potential recruits.

It gave the example of an Al-Aqsa presenter who put a mug on his desk at the start of a show, allegedly confirming to a recruit that he was actually in contact with Hamas agents.