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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Netanyahu wants to expel Al Jazeera for 'inciting violence'

Israel has regularly accused Al Jazeera of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al Jazeera network in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. Reuters / Ronen Zvulun
An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al Jazeera network in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. Reuters / Ronen Zvulun

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wants to expel Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera from Israel amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

"The Al Jazeera channel continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount," Mr Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, referring to the Haram Al Sharif compound in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

"I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem. If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al Jazeera from Israel."

Israel has regularly accused Al Jazeera of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The network did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Mr Netanyahu also did not respond to a request for further comment on the post.

Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since new security measures were installed at the holy site.

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There was a tense standoff between Israel and Muslim worshippers at the Jerusalem holy site despite the removal of metal detectors and other installations there, with concerns the situation could deteriorate into major unrest.

Muslims had refused to enter the site and have prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed the new security measures at the compound.

On Thursday, Muslim elders encouraged Muslims to pray at Al Aqsa mosque after a report from the Waqf – a Jordanian-backed body that oversees the Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem – was released.

"The technical report showed that all obstacles the occupation [Israel] put outside Al Aqsa mosque were removed," the head of the Waqf, Abdel-Azeem Salhab, said.

"We praise this stand in the past two weeks outside Al Aqsa and we want this stand to continue outside Al Aqsa and now inside Al Aqsa," he said, urging worshippers to return to the site.

The Israeli measures followed an attack that killed two policemen on July 14.

Palestinians view the security move as Israel asserting further control over the site, which houses the revered Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Mr Netanyahu's remarks come as Gulf states seek Al Jazeera's closure.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt broke ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of fostering extremism and later issuing 13 demands, including Al Jazeera's closure.

Mr Netanyahu has sought to improve ties with countries in the region, where it is heavily criticised over its 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory.

Egypt and Jordan are currently the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel.

The prime minister has also faced backlash among Israelis for his decision to install the metal detectors after the attack at such an ultra-sensitive site, with many calling it a miscalculation that he was forced to back down from.

Mr Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

He has frequently criticised the news media, accusing it of seeking to undermine his government.