Al Watan tv Reuters
Ibraheem Hamed, a Palestinian television cameraman from Watan TV, stands in the station's studio in the West Bank city of Ramallah February 29, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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Emil Salman
The city of Ramallah. Photo by Emil Salman

Israeli officials shut down two Palestinian television stations in Ramallah early Wednesday morning, after the Israel Defense Forces said they were operating without a license on frequencies that could disrupt communications with planes taking off and landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

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One of the stations, Al Watan, was particularly popular in the area.

IDF soldiers accompanied the Communications Ministry inspectors on the raid. But initial reports that the stations' staff were detained later proved unfounded.

An employee at one broadcaster said his station was raided at about 2 A.M.

The IDF Spokesman's Office confirmed the raid, saying it was carried out after repeated requests to have the stations stop their broadcasts went unheeded. The spokesman said the stations had seriously interfered with legal broadcasts in Israel and were "shut down in accordance with the law."

Veteran Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti condemned the raid, and particularly the fact that Israeli forces entered Area A, the portion of the West Bank that the Oslo Accords assigned to the Palestinian Authority's full control.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called the raid proof of the powerlessness of the Middle East Quartet, comprised of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia. He urged that the stations be restored to the airwaves as soon as possible.