HEBRON: An employee of Trans Media inspects a satellite at the company office in the West Bank city of Hebron yesterday, following the closure of the media office by Israeli forces. - AFP

HEBRON: Israeli forces raided Palestinian media offices across the occupied West Bank overnight in what a military spokeswoman yesterday called a "large-scale operation" against incitement. The raids on eight companies came hours after the Israeli government declared that it would not deal with an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group made radical changes.  Israeli officials said the raids targeted companies that provide services to Hamas television stations. Notices were posted saying the companies were to be closed for six months.

"Israeli army forces last night raided eight Palestinian production and media companies that provide services to Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds TV channels," the head of an Israeli defense ministry unit known as COGAT, Yoav Mordechai, wrote on Facebook, referring to Hamas channels. "These two channels broadcast constant incitement against the state of Israel. It is no secret that these two channels inspired, several times, terrorists to go out and commit terrorist attacks against innocents." Israeli officials provided no specific examples of the alleged incitement. At least one of the companies targeted provides various services to a range of local and international news media.

The Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids "in the strongest terms". "Occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices," PA government spokesman Yusef al-Mahmoud said in a statement.  He said the measures were a "clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides." US President Donald Trump has been seeking ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Equipment seized

A Palestinian journalists' union official in the southern West Bank city of Hebron said that the offices of three companies providing production services to Hamas television channels were closed and equipment and documents seized.  They were named as Palmedia, Ramsat and Transmedia, a satellite broadcasting facility where two members of staff were arrested, the union official said.

An official with Palmedia said that three of its five offices in the West Bank were closed, including its headquarters in Ramallah as well as in Hebron and Nablus. Some 50 people were out of work due to the Palmedia closures, he said. The company provides services to a range of local and international media.  A military spokeswoman told AFP that security forces "searched a number of media and production offices suspected of broadcasting inciting content, encouraging, celebrating and promoting violence and terrorism against Israelis."

"During the large-scale operation, media stations such as Ramsat and Transmedia were closed," she added."In addition forces seized equipment and documents from media companies that provided services to Al Aqsa and Al Quds-TV channels that are illegal organizations." Last week, rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas signed a landmark unity deal aimed at ending a decade-long split. Israel said on Tuesday it would not negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist movement does not disarm, recognize the country and renounce violence.

The government statement also demanded that president Mahmud Abbas's Palestinian Authority "continue to act against Hamas terror infrastructures" in the West Bank. Hamas has run the Gaza Strip for a decade, but also has a presence in the West Bank, where Abbas's Fatah is based. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade. Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years. Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah that followed an electoral dispute after polls won by the Islamist movement.- AFP