Israeli troops have raided two private Palestinian television stations in the illegally occupied West Bank, seizing transmitters and other equipment.

The two stations affected were Watan Television, a local private station, and Quds Educational Television, affiliated with the Palestinian Al-Quds University.

"They came at 2 am (0000 GMT) and took about 30 computers and all the transmitters. The station is totally shut down," said Ali Daraghmeh, Watan's editor-in-chief.

Haroun Abu Arra, director of Quds Educational Television, said troops raided his station shortly afterwards.

"At 3:00 am (0100 GMT), the Israeli army entered the television station's office and took all the transmitters, and the station is now unable to broadcast," he said.

The Israeli army said that Watan Television was a pirate station whose frequencies interfered with legal broadcasters and aircraft communications. It said several transmitters were confiscated in the operation initiated by Israel's communications ministry.

The military also confirmed a second raid at Quds Educational Television, but did not elaborate.

Palestinian officials denounced the raids as an aggression and va iolation of media freedoms.

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, visited al-Watan later on Wednesday and said the raid had undermined his government.

"This is a clear aggression against what remains of the Palestinian Authority," Fayyad said, urging international mediators to force Israel to halt such raids.

Al-Watan station director Moammar Orabi said about 30 soldiers had entered the station before dawn.

Orabi told The Associated Press news agency an Israeli officer told station employees to "say hello to Khader Adnan," referring to the Palestinian detainee who waged a hunger strike for more than two months to protest being held without formal charges.

Al-Watan frequently reports on Palestinian protests against Israeli policies in the West Bank. It is owned by three non-governmental associations, including the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, headed by legislator Mustafa Barghouti.

"This is an act of repression of the freedom of the media in Palestine, and of repression of the popular resistance that we believe in," Barghouti said.

Source: Agencies