Israel Raids Unlicensed P.A. TV Stations

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Pre-dawn raids on two Palestinian Authority television stations, whose broadcasts could interfere with flight communication at Ben Gurion International Airport, sparked outrage from P.A. officials.

The popular al-Watan television station and an educational station affiliated with al-Quds University, both broadcasting from Ramallah, were shut down.

Officials from Israel's Ministry of Communications and IDF troops confiscated transmitters and other equipment that could potentially disrupt communications with planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion airport.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called the raids "oppressive and monstrous" and "acts of piracy" that violated "all international laws," the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported.

Fayyad called on the stations to resume broadcasting "today, before tomorrow," saying the raids diminish "what's left of the Palestinian Authority's stature," Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported.

Undersecretary of the P.A.'s telecommunications ministry Suleiman Zuheiri said his ministry was not notified about the disruptions or the raids.

But the IDF Spokesman's office said repeated requests to the stations had been ignored and the stations, which also disrupted legal broadcasts in Israel, were "shut down in accordance with the law."

The Interim Agreement between Israel and the P.A., signed in Washington, D.C., on September 28, 1995, sets limits on P.A. television channels.

Article 36 calls on both sides to "refrain from any action that interferes with the communication and broadcasting systems and infrastructures of the other side."

The telecommunication's section further requires the P.A. to only use approved frequencies, television channels and transmitters that "shall not disturb or interfere with Israeli radio communication activity."

Zuheiri said he planned to immediately forward an "emergency complaint" to the International Telecommunication Union and Israel's Ministry of Communication," Ma'an reported.

In 2002, Israel raided the same two stations, confiscating equipment that disrupted air traffic controllers at Ben Gurion airport.

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