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Israeli forces raid Palestinian TV station in Ramallah

Manager of Falastin al-Yawm arrested, with Shin Bet accusing West Bank-based channel of 'broadcasting on behalf of Islamic Jihad'
An employee of Falastin al-Yawm inspects damage at the station's offices following a raid by security forces (AFP)

Israeli forces on Friday raided the Ramallah offices of a Palestinian media outlet after the Israeli government approved new measures to combat unrest.

Locals told the Palestinian news agency Maan that Israeli soldiers stormed the headquarters of Falastin al-Yawm and TransMedia Production Company, arresting two journalists, delivering orders for the offices to be shut down, and confiscating property.

The Shin Bet agency said in a statement that the station was associated with Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian Islamic political movement, and had been cited for incitement of violence.

"The channel served the Islamic Jihad as a central means to incite the West Bank population, calling for terror attacks against Israel and its citizens. Incitement was broadcast on the television station as well as the Internet," it said.

Since 1 October, a wave of violence has killed 188 Palestinians, 28 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count.

Many of the Palestinians were killed while allegedly carrying out or attempting to carry out knife or car-ramming attacks. A number of others were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during demonstrations.

Also on Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man in Jerusalem's Old City, leaving him moderately wounded.

The assailant, 18-years-old and from the West Bank, was arrested after a brief search of the area, police said.

In the West Bank village of Beitunia, near Ramallah, Palestinians hurled rocks and at least one petrol bomb at armoured army patrol vehicles and troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets in response.

In the pre-dawn raid on Falastin al-Yawm, conducted jointly by Shin Bet, Israeli police and the army, security forces arrested office manager, Farooq Aliat, 34, of Bir Zeit, north of Ramallah, the agency's statement said.

The Shin Bet claimed that Aliat was a member of the Islamic Jihad organisation who had previously "been imprisoned in Israel for his activities".

Cameraman Mohammed Amr and technician Shabib Shabib were briefly detained then released, the Palestinian Journalists Union said.

An Israeli army order in Arabic declaring the premises closed indefinitely was posted on the door.

TV production company TransMedia, in the same building, was also raided and equipment taken away, AFP journalists at the scene said.

'Long saga of oppression'

TransMedia provides facilities for several foreign and local stations, including Palestine Today.

The channel, which is based in the Gaza Strip, said it continued to broadcast to the Israeli-occupied West Bank via its Lebanese transmitters.

Islamic Jihad denounced the "Israeli aggression against the nationalist media of the resistance," calling the raid "another episode in the long saga of oppression by the occupation."

Senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the Israeli operation, saying it showed "the will of the extremist Israeli government to silence every Palestinian voice".

Israel blames incitement by Palestinian leaders and media as a main cause of the current violence.

Since October, Palestinian Today has been showing a "Jerusalem Intifada" logo on screen during its reports on the violence.

In November, Israel shut down two radio stations in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron - al-Hurria and al-Khalil - also accusing them of incitement.

On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on new measures, including a crackdown on Palestinian broadcasters and completion of the unfinished separation wall that cuts through the West Bank, confiscating Palestinian land.

A day earlier, Israeli forces had arrested Al-Quds radio correspondent Sami al-Saee, 36, at his house in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm, according to a Palestinian NGO.

He also ordered the cancellation of Israeli work permits for relatives of accused Palestinian attackers and fast-track demolition of perpetrators' homes.

Israel has increased its efforts against Palestinian labourers, arresting more than 400 workers and dozens of their Israeli employers over the past two days, police said.

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