Israeli Army Raids, Shuts Down Palestinian Radio Station Over 'Incitement to Violence'

Israeli officials expect the closure could lower the rate at which attacks are being carried out in the Hebron area.

IDF soldiers in Al-Huria radio station, November 2, 2015
IDF soldiers raid the Al-Hurria radio station, November 2, 2015. Screen grab from Al-Huriya Website

The Israeli Defense Forces and its Civil Administration raided a radio station in the West Bank city of Hebron early Tuesday and ordered it shut down.

A statement issued by the IDF said Minbar Al-Hurriah 92.7 FM was closed for broadcasting incitement to violence. The army added that equipment was confiscated "with the aim of rendering the station inoperable.”

Officials in the defense establishment expect that the closure of the station, which it says has been encouraging the commission of terrorist attacks, could influence the rate at which attacks are being carried out in the Hebron area. Over the past month, 29 such attacks were committed in the region, army data show, including 22 stabbing attacks. Palestinian residents of Hebron have also been involved in attacks elsewhere – in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Petah Tikva, Kiryat Gat, and on Monday in Rishon Letzion.

Ayman Qawasmi, the director of the station, Minbar al-Hurriah 92.7 FM, said a large army unit marched into the station's office in the Palestinian-controlled section of Hebron and seized equipment before handing the staff an order closing it for six months. "Israel says that the station is inciting to violence because we say youth are being executed," he told Voice of Palestine radio.

Witnesses said the soldiers came with an order that, in addition to directing that the station be shut down, prohibited entry into the building. The soldiers confiscated equipment and caused extensive property damage, witnesses said. The soldiers reportedly summoned two on-air radio staffers, Mahmoud Aqnibi and Mohammed Abidu, for questioning. The army shut down the radio station on two previous occasions, in 2002, the year in the station was established, and then again in 2008.

Israeli government officials had previously threatened to take legal action to shut down official Palestinian television and radio, which operate out of Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, on grounds of incitement.

Israel has vowed to act against inflammatory rhetoric that calls for armed attacks against Israelis as part of efforts to purportedly "defend" the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The army issued the following statement in connection with the raid on the Hebron station: “The IDF will continue to take steps using every legal means at its disposal against the attackers and those assisting them to provide security to the residents of the State of Israel. The operation confiscating the equipment and closing the station is a necessary step in eliminating the incitement the results of which have been seen on the ground over the past month.”

DPA contributed to this report.