Israel Returns AP Equipment After International Outcry

Israel has returned broadcasting equipment belonging to the Associated Press (AP) after seizing it and shutting down the news agency’s live feed in Gaza. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi reversed the decision following mounting international pressure.

The White House expressed concern, while the Foreign Press Association described it as “the latest in a series of chilling steps by the Israeli government to stifle the media.” The UN condemned the move as “shocking.” AP’s Vice President Lauren Easton said the organization “decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government.”

Minister Karhi stated that the equipment was confiscated for allegedly violating a new media law by providing images for broadcasts on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, which is banned in Israel. He later announced on social media, “I have now ordered to cancel the operation and return the equipment to the AP agency, until a different decision is made by the Ministry of Defence.”

Karhi claimed the images transmitted by AP were revealing “positions of our forces in the northern Gaza Strip,” thereby putting them at risk. Earlier this month, the ministry shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel, accusing it of being a “Hamas mouthpiece” and endangering national security. Al Jazeera denied these allegations and called the ban a “criminal act” that violated human rights.

Despite the ban, Al Jazeera continues operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, regions foreign journalists have been barred from entering since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in October.

The Associated Press reported that Israeli officials seized its camera broadcasting a view of northern Gaza from Sderot on Tuesday afternoon, alleging a violation of the country’s foreign broadcaster law. AP maintained it complied with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details that could endanger soldiers.

“The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law,” said Easton. She urged Israeli authorities to return the equipment and allow AP to continue providing visual journalism to media outlets globally.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described the incident as “concerning” and emphasized the importance of journalists’ rights to perform their duties. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid called the confiscation of AP’s equipment “an act of madness.”

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem warned the seizure would impede AP from delivering crucial images of northern Gaza to its clients worldwide. “Israel’s move today is a slippery slope,” the association said. “Israel could block other international news agencies from providing live footage of Gaza.”

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders accused Israel of “outrageous censorship.” Earlier, communication ministry inspectors raided an Al Jazeera studio in Nazareth and confiscated equipment, following the closure of Al Jazeera’s offices in East Jerusalem and the blocking of its broadcasts and websites in Israel.

In April, the Israeli parliament approved a new media law permitting the temporary ban of foreign networks deemed a threat to national security for 45 days, with the possibility of renewal.