Ahmed Maghni, public prosecutor, told AFP on Sunday that the Al Aqsa television station, which started broadcasting only on 9 January, was being shut down because it did not have the necessary broadcast licence.

 

He said: "The decision to close Al Aqsa television was taken today. A complaint was filed and inquiries were made, and we found out that the station had not legally applied."

 

The decision to close the channel, which was taken in co-ordination with the interior ministry, has not yet been enforced and comes three days before the general elections, in which Hamas is fielding candidates for the first time.

 

Maghni said: "It is up to the interior minister and the police to enforce this decision."

 

Rael Abu Deir, the head of Al Aqsa television, said he had not been notified about the decision but admitted that the station did not have the relevant broadcast licence.

 

No licence

 

Abu Deir said: "We have been trying for a year [to receive a licence] but the information minister told us he was not yet taking applications."

 

Al Aqsa television, which has been running a trial service for a fortnight, is the first private television station to apply for a licence in the Gaza Strip.

 

Tawfiq Abu Khussa, the interior ministry spokesman, said judicial officials had "taken the decision to close every television station operating without a licence", including Al Aqsa TV.

 

The station, which was at the start of a three-month trial phase, was broadcasting 12 hours of programming from 10am (0800 GMT), most of which involved election material put together by Hamas election candidates.

 

It also showed short clips glorifying Hamas "martyrs" who were killed fighting Israel, as well as religious programmes and patriotic chanting.