Hamas-affiliated channel stays on air despite saying broadcasts would end

Al-Aqsa TV says its financial woes have been partially resolved, as Hamas chief Haniyeh announces decision to keep it open

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

The logo of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV
The logo of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV

The Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV station stayed on air even though it announced earlier this week that its broadcasts would be indefinitely halted Thursday evening over financial woes.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh declared in a statement that Al-Aqsa TV’s broadcast would not be halted. He also said a “clear and direct decision” was made to keep the channel on air, without elaborating.

The Gaza City-based channel said on Thursday that its financial crisis had been “partially resolved.”

It had said in a statement on Wednesday that its broadcast would be halted on Thursday at 5 p.m.

On November 12, the station’s main office and studios were bombed by Israel during a short-lived but intense flareup of violence that saw Hamas and other Gaza Strip-based terror groups fire hundreds of rockets at Israel.

The Israeli aircraft first fired a “warning missile” at the multi-story headquarters, which was captured live on air as personnel fled the building, before firing a number of missiles to destroy the building.

A ball of fire above the building housing the Hamas-affiliated television station Al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike, November 12, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Following the airstrikes, the channel briefly went off air, but soon resumed broadcasting from another location.

Al-Aqsa TV has said the damages amounted to some $4.5 million.

In a statement on November 12, the IDF said it demolished the Al-Aqsa TV headquarters in “response to the terror attack that the Hamas terror group is leading against Israeli citizens.”

The army added that the channel was “used by [Hamas] for military activities, including sending messages to terrorist operatives in the West Bank, calls for terror attacks and instructions on how to commit them.”

Wisam Afifa, Al-Aqsa TV’s  director, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday that approximately 220 people work for the channel.

In a statement on November 12, Hamas denounced the destruction of the channel’s building.

“The occupation’s targeting of the station’s headquarters is barbaric and barefaced aggression,” the terror group said in a statement, according to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center. “It reflects the enemy’s criminal mindset and is an attack on every free voice seeking to expose the enemy’s crimes, terrorism and violations at the expense of Gaza.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, an email address and phone numbers to make donations were featured on the channel’s website.

Israel also bombed the outlet’s headquarters in December 2008, during the first war to break out in Gaza in the wake of the 2005 disengagement.

In 2010, the US government designated Al-Aqsa TV as a terror group.

The station’s reporters have frequently praised violence against Israelis and rocket attacks on the Jewish state.

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