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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 18:22 GMT
Israel accuses al-Jazeera of bias
Al-Jazeera correspondent in Gaza
Al-Jazeera is accused of focusing on Gaza and ignoring Israeli suffering
Israel has announced a boycott of the Arabic broadcaster al-Jazeera, accusing it of bias during coverage of the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Ministers will refuse to do interviews and will deny visa applications from its staff, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Wahbe said.

He accused the Qatari-owned station of prioritising Palestinian suffering.

The station's Jerusalem bureau chief denied bias and said Israel was trying to influence media coverage.

Israeli officials backed their claim by saying al-Jazeera had covered the Gaza incursion but not the Palestinian rocket attacks against the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

The recent upsurge in violence saw at least 120 Palestinians killed in Israeli military strikes on Gaza.

Five Israelis have also been killed, including a civilian in a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza.

Protest letter

Bureau chief Walid al-Omari argued that his reporters had covered a Palestinian shooting attack in Jerusalem last week in which eight Israelis were killed.

Israel is trying to "intimidate al-Jazeera to influence our coverage", Mr Omari said.

"We are not the ones who launch rockets at Israel, and we are not the ones who send F-16s to bomb Gaza," he added.

Israeli officials said they were sending a letter of complaint to the government of Qatar.

Al-Jazeera was founded in 1996. It broke many taboos in Arabic broadcast journalism, including interviewing Israeli officials despite Qatar's having no diplomatic relations with Israel.

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