The Gaza Strip’s Al-Aqsa TV is to go off air tonight, a month after its studio was destroyed by an Israeli air strike.
In a statement yesterday, the TV station announced that it would go off air today at 17:00 local time (15:00 GMT), citing a “suffocating financial crisis” caused by an Israeli air strike which left the channel with $4.5 million worth of damages, the Times of Israel reported.
Director of Al-Aqsa TV, Wisam Afifa, told Anadolu Agency that it is unclear if and when the station will be able to resume its broadcasts, saying the timescale “depends on the availability funds”.
Though the station yesterday provided an email address and phone numbers that could be used to make donations, it is unlikely enough funds will be raised to prevent the channel from ceasing its broadcast tonight.
Afifa added that some 220 people work for the channel, meaning they are likely to be left without work following the station’s closure.
The Al-Aqsa TV headquarters – based in Gaza City in the besieged Gaza Strip – was targeted by an Israeli air strike on 12 November in which several missiles were used to destroy the building. Moments before the Israeli army had fired warning shots on the roof, with the station catching the event on camera while filming a live debate. In the footage, the TV show’s host can be seen having to cut the debate short, saying: “Apparently there is a new Zionist attack against the Gaza Strip. I’m waiting for a signal from the editing room and from the control room. If there are any developments, they should notify us right now.” The host is then forced to end the broadcast, before the signal cuts out and the screen goes black as the Israeli air strike begins.
Although no injuries were reported, the strike was interpreted as characteristic of Israel’s targeting of civilian infrastructure, media outlets and indeed journalists themselves. Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for Hamas – which governs the besieged enclave and runs Al-Aqsa TV – described the attack as a “blatant act of aggression against journalism and all free voices dedicated to communicating the truth”.
November’s strike on Al-Aqsa TV came amid an escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas, in the wake of a botched Israeli raid which left seven Palestinians and one Israeli soldier dead, among them was Hamas commander Nour Baraka. It subsequently emerged that undercover Israeli agents had posed as Palestinian humanitarian workers, potentially crossing into the Strip via the Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossing by saying they “were delivering patients back from clinics to their homes and had a wheelchair in the back of the van”.
Speculation that Israel could launch another war on Gaza was rife, but the reluctance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a subsequent domestic political crisis in Israel prevented any further escalation.