Hamas shutters critical media in Gaza Strip

(JTA) – Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip ordered shut two news outlets that published reports tying the Islamist group to the Muslim Brotherhood recently ousted from power in Egypt.

The French news agency AFP reported Thursday that the attorney-general in Gaza’s Hamas-run government ordered the closure of the Gaza bureaus of the Palestinian Ma’an news agency and the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV news network.

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A Hamas official told AFP that Al Arabiya’s office was shuttered “for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what’s happening in Egypt.”

Both agencies have reported that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president ousted earlier this month by the Egyptian military, may stand trial for spying for Hamas, among other charges.

“We received the closure notice and an official statement from Al Arabiya will be published to respond to this decision,” its Gaza correspondent, Islam Abd Al Kareem, told AFP.

Ma’an reported separately that Hamas officials accompanied by security forces on Thursday delivered a closure notice to the Gaza offices of Ma’an. The officials questioned Ma’an’s Gaza bureau chief in his office over a Ma’an report that quoted information translated from a Hebrew-language news site, the agency reported.

That report said that six Muslim Brotherhood officials had smuggled themselves into Gaza to plan an uprising against the military in Cairo. A ministry official told Ma’an’s bureau chief that the report was false.

The official accused Ma’an of “seeking to intensify the incitement in Egypt against the Strip,” Ma’an quoted the ministry official as saying.

“Ma’an deliberately publishes false news reports seeking to incite against Gaza. It has become complicit with Egyptian media outlets in incitement against the Strip,” the official said.

Ma’an’s editor-in-chief Nasser Lahham said Hamas “takes any possible occasion to wage tough attacks against Ma’an news agency for no reason.”

Hamas is an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood chapter launched in Gaza during Egypt’s 1949-1967 control of the strip, which borders Israel and Egypt. Israel occupied Gaza from 1967-2005.