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Israel shuts down Palestinian TV in raid

By Paul Colsey, CNN
updated 9:37 AM EST, Wed February 29, 2012
Employees walk through a studio at Palestinian television station
Employees walk through a studio at Palestinian television station "Wattan" after Israeli troops raided the station overnight.
  • NEW: Palestinian PM calls it "piracy" and slams the Middle East Quartet
  • Israeli security forces take transmitters, tapes, computers and paperwork, Wattan TV says
  • Israel says the station's broadcasts interfered with Israeli TV and flight communications
  • Wattan TV vows to continue broadcasting

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli security forces and intelligence officers raided a Palestinian television station overnight and took computers, tapes, transmitters and paperwork, the director of the station said Wednesday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called it "piracy."

The raid began at 2 a.m., Wattan TV director Muamar Orabi said.

"Four night-shift employees were detained for more than three hours inside the offices after their mobile phones were taken," he added.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the raid had taken place.

Israeli Ministry of Communications spokesman Yehiel Shavi said Wattan broadcasts "were interfering with the signals of Israeli broadcasters" and said the interference had been stopped "with the assistance of the IDF."

The IDF said repeated requests had been made to Wattan to stop its broadcasts because they interfered with Israeli broadcasters and flight communications at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

But Orabi said his station had never received a complaint about transmission frequencies, and said the response was disproportionate even if that was the reason for the raid.

"Why destroy the TV station when they could have just confiscated the two transmitters?" he asked.

"This is not the first time this has happened. Wattan TV was destroyed 10 years ago, in March 2002," he said.

The station called the raid an act of piracy and vowed to continue its work.

"Wattan TV deplores this aggressive behavior against an efficient and effective media organization and will work through its contacts with local and international media and human rights organizations to expose this criminal act," the station said in a statement. "Wattan will work on restoring all the stolen equipment and transmitters and continue interrupted broadcasting."

Fayyad issued a statement saying: "This piracy and raids of Palestinian media institutions brings back to mind the practices during the beginning of the second Intifadah when Israeli occupation forces raided and sabotaged many Palestinian media institutions including Palestine TV, Voice of Palestine, and Wattan TV."

He said officials will work to put the station back on air immediately.

Fayyad also said the Middle East Quartet -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia -- bears responsibility for not preventing Israel from carrying out such actions, according to the statement.

"These dangerous violations of the Israeli occupation forces reveal the extent of failure and shortcomings of the Quartet" and the "clear incapability of the Quartet to perform its duties," Fayyad said.

CNN's Enas Muthaffar contributed to this report

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