Israeli Security Cabinet set to approve closure of Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera

May 2 (UPI) -- The Israeli Security Cabinet is set to vote Thursday to close Al Jazeera's office in the country.

The Knesset last month approved a law that would give the Israeli government temporary power to shut down foreign broadcasts in Israel if they are deemed by security services to be a national security threat.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi headed passage of the "Preventing Foreign Broadcasters From Harming National Security" law after Israel Defense Forces warned Al Jazeera broadcasts were revealing the locations of military forces and endangering soldiers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on the day of the bill's passage that he would act on the law "immediately," while accusing Al Jazeera of "aiding Hamas terrorists" in the deadly Oct. 7 attack.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel days later appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing the law was unconstitutional on free-speech grounds. The government on April 26 requested a two-week delay in a ruling, which the court granted on May 1.

ACRI in response requested the court give an interim order barring the government from proceeding to implement the law, arguing the government acted in "bad faith."

For the government to act against Al Jazeera, all of Israel's security agencies must first provide their opinion with "factual foundations" that prove the news agency presents "real harm" to national security.

The decision would then go before the president or vice president of a regional court within 24 hours. Judges then have three days to rule on changing the decision or limiting its enforcement period.

Any decision to shutter the news agency would only apply for 45 days, with a chance to re-approve it after the 45 days end. The measure will expire on July 31.

The Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera has a team of Israel correspondents covering the ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza strip. It is one of the few news agencies to broadcast live within Gaza during the conflict.

The Knesset previously passed emergency measures that would have enabled it to temporarily shut down Al Jazeera from Oct. 21 to Jan. 20, but it did not act on them. ACRI argued refusing to do so then undercut the government's argument that Al Jazeera presented a serious threat.

Israeli officials have long complained of Al Jazeera's coverage of the Gaza war, which they argue skews in favor of Hamas, but they have so far stopped short of taking action against the news site because of Qatar's funding of construction projects in the Gaza strip, which all sides see as favorable.

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