Israel Revokes Order to Cut AP Live Gaza Video Feed 

A ship transporting international humanitarian aid is moored at the US-built Trident Pier as Palestinians walk along a main road near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas group. (AFP)
A ship transporting international humanitarian aid is moored at the US-built Trident Pier as Palestinians walk along a main road near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas group. (AFP)
TT

Israel Revokes Order to Cut AP Live Gaza Video Feed 

A ship transporting international humanitarian aid is moored at the US-built Trident Pier as Palestinians walk along a main road near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas group. (AFP)
A ship transporting international humanitarian aid is moored at the US-built Trident Pier as Palestinians walk along a main road near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas group. (AFP)

Israel walked back its decision to shut down an Associated Press live video feed of war-torn Gaza on Tuesday, following a protest from the US news agency and concern from the White House.

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said he had revoked an earlier order that accused the AP of breaching a new ban on providing rolling footage of Gaza to Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera.

"I have now ordered to cancel the operation and return the equipment to the AP agency," Karhi said in a statement, after Washington called on Israel to reverse the move.

"We've been engaging directly with the government of Israel to express our concerns over this action and to ask them to reverse it," a White House spokesperson said.

Karhi's original order earlier Tuesday said communications ministry inspectors had "confiscated the equipment" of AP on orders approved by the government "in accordance with the law".

AP said Israeli officials had seized its camera and broadcasting equipment at a location in the Israeli town of Sderot that overlooks the northern Gaza Strip.

In a statement issued after the order, the news agency said it "decries in the strongest terms" the move by the Israeli government.

Reacting after Israeli officials ordered the equipment to be returned, it added: "While we are pleased with this development, we remain concerned about the Israeli government's use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel."

AP said Al Jazeera was among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from the agency.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said the government "went crazy".

"This is not Al Jazeera, this is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes," he wrote on social media platform X.

- 'Attack on press freedom' -

AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd said Israel's initial order was "an attack on press freedom".

"The free flow of verified information and images from reliable sources is vital in the current highly-charged context," he said in a statement.

"We would urge the authorities to immediately reverse this decision and to allow all journalists to work freely and without hindrance."

The United Nations said it was "shocking".

"The Associated Press, of all news organizations, should be allowed to do its work freely and free of any harassment," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera was taken off the air in Israel this month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government voted to shut it down over its coverage of the Gaza war.

Al Jazeera's Jerusalem offices were shuttered, its equipment confiscated, and its team's accreditations pulled.

The AP said communications ministry officials arrived at its location in Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment.

It said officials had handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by the communications minister, alleging it was violating the country's new foreign broadcast law.

The ministry later confirmed the incident.

It said the US news agency regularly took images of Gaza from the balcony of a house in Sderot, "including focusing on the activities of IDF (army) soldiers and their location".

"Even though the inspectors of the Ministry of Communications warned them that they were breaking the law and that they should cut off Al Jazeera from receiving their content and not transfer a broadcast to Al Jazeera, they continued to do so," it said.

- 'Outrageous censorship' -

The AP said it had been broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza before its equipment was seized, and that the live feed has generally shown smoke rising over the Palestinian territory.

"The AP complies with Israel's military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troops movements that could endanger soldiers," the agency added.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel said it was "alarmed" by the confiscation of the AP's equipment, calling it "a slippery slope".

It denounced Israel's "dismal" record on press freedom during the Gaza war, and called the move against AP "outrageous censorship".

In the 2024 press freedom index by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Israel ranked 101st out of 180 countries -- dropping four positions from the previous year.

After the order to restore AP's equipment was announced, RSF said on X that it was "good to see a rapid reversal of this outrageous decision, but @AP never should have been blocked".

"The ban on @AlJazeera must also be immediately reversed - and the international community should show the same support it showed today," it added.

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Hamas also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.



Hezbollah Fires New Barrage at Israel, Which Vows to Hit Back

Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Hezbollah Fires New Barrage at Israel, Which Vows to Hit Back

Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said it fired a new wave of rockets and drones at the Israeli army on Thursday, after an Israeli strike killed one of its senior commanders, AFP reported.
It was Hezbollah’s largest simultaneous attack in near-daily cross-border fire between it and the Israeli army since its ally Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered the Gaza war.
Hezbollah fighters launched “an attack with rockets and drones, targeting six barracks and military sites” while simultaneously flying “squadrons of explosive-laden drones” at three other Israeli bases, the group said in a statement.
One of the targets included an Israeli base that Hezbollah said housed an intelligence headquarters “responsible for the assassinations.”
Hezbollah said the attacks were “part of the response to the assassination” of Hezbollah commander Taleb Abdallah on Tuesday.
The Israeli army said about “40 projectiles were launched toward the Galilee and Golan Heights area,” adding most were intercepted while others ignited fires.
The Israeli government vowed to respond strongly to all Hezbollah attacks.
“Israel will respond with force to all aggressions by Hezbollah,” government spokesman David Mencer said during a press briefing.
“Whether through diplomatic efforts or otherwise, Israel will restore security on our northern border,” he added.
In recent weeks, cross-border exchanges have escalated, with Hezbollah stepping up its use of drones to attack Israeli military positions and Israel hitting back with targeted strikes against the militants.
On Wednesday, top Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine vowed the group would “increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks,” while speaking at Abdallah’s funeral.
The Israeli army confirmed it carried out the strike that “eliminated” Abdallah on Tuesday, describing him as “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon.”
A Lebanese military source said he was the “most important” Hezbollah commander to have been killed since the start of the war.
The cross-border violence has killed at least 468 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 89 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 Israeli soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed.