The Palestinian Authority’s Attorney General Ahmad Barak on Thursday ordered the blocking of 11 news sites belonging to political rivals, including Hamas — drawing ire from the Gaza-based terrorist organization and from a Palestinian rights group.
The decision, reported by Palestinian media, came amid a series of measures taken by the PA intended to force Hamas to cede control of the Gaza Strip — which it seized in 2007 after a violent conflict with Fatah — including substantially reducing the funding for electricity and medical aid.
The sites affiliated to Hamas that are to be blocked include Pal Info Center and al-Shehab.
Some of the sites are reportedly connected to Mohammad Dahlan, a rival to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the Fatah party, who was expelled by Abbas from the PA in 2011. These sites include Fatah Voice and Amad.
The PA has not officially commented on the decision to block these sites, nor could a representative of the PA Attorney General’s office be reached for comment.
However, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, which is not affiliated with Hamas or Dahlan, said Palestinian officials confirmed the decision.
The Hamas outlet al-Shehab reported that its hosting company received orders to block the news site.
Ammar Dwaik, head of the Palestinian rights group The Independent Commission for Human Rights, which is based both in the West Bank and Gaza, slammed the decision.
“Blocking Internet sites (especially news sites) is contrary to the principles of human rights, specifically the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to information,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
He added the move would “harm our people, putting us among the few states in the world that block internet sites.” He also argued it would harm the Palestinian economy, as it would drive Palestinians to seek Israeli internet providers.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said the decision “reflects Abbas’s dictatorial approach… in dealing with the Palestinian people.” He called on Palestinians to “thwart all of Abbas’s schemes to confiscate freedoms.”