'Al Jazeera stunned'

The accusations were rejected by Al Jazeera which defended its "professional journalistic standards", criticising the Palestinian Authority's repression of the freedom of media and its apparent refusal to tolerate the opinions of others.

In a statement released at its Doha headquarters, Al Jazeera said it was "stunned" that it had been sanctioned for the story, which had also been aired by several other media.

"Al Jazeera is astonished to learn of the Palestinian Authority's decision to suspend the network’s operations in the West Bank and the PA's intention to take legal action against Al Jazeera's Arabic channel.

"The Palestinian Authority has stated its decisions are in response to Al Jazeera reporting the accusations made by secretary-general of the Fatah movement Mr Farouk Kaddoumi against the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his adviser Mohammed Dahlan. 

"Mr Kaddoumi accused both leaders of being aware of an Israeli conspiracy to kill the late president Yasser Arafat.

"Al Jazeera believes that it has maintained strict professional journalistic standards and acted in accordance with its Code of Ethics in its coverage, and that the Palestinian Authority's reaction reflects a repression of the freedom of media and a refusal to tolerate the opinions of others.

"Al Jazeera is surprised that it has been targeted by this decision while many other Arab and international media organisations also broadcast Kaddoumi's allegations.

"None of them have been reproached. Al Jazeera declares its ongoing commitment to covering events related to Palestine with the highest degree of professionalism and responsibility."

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, which groups international news organisations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said it was "deeply concerned" by the PA's move.

"We urge the PA to reconsider and are urgently seeking a resolution in line with the PA's stated commitment to freedom of the  press," it said.