Armed men have raided the offices of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine TV in Gaza, officials said, in a move that could exacerbate tensions between the leader’s Palestinian Authority and the Hamas movement which rules the territory.
Rafat Al-Qidra, the office director, said five men broke into the premises early on Friday and destroyed cameras, editing and broadcast equipment worth nearly $150,000.
“Whoever rules in Gaza must afford protection to everyone here,” Qidra told the Reuters news agency.
The station broadcasts material supportive of Abbas’s Western-backed Authority, whose power base lies in the occupied West Bank. Station officials immediately blamed Hamas for the attack.
“Hamas is deeply involved in this conspiracy,” said Ahmed Assaf, chairman of the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation (PBC), speaking to the channel in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The PBC issued a statement saying the attack was a “clear reflection of the mentality of the Hamas movement and criminal gangs who believe only in their voice, and who seek to suppress freedoms”.
Neither Assaf nor the PBC offered any evidence for their accusations, and Hamas officials swiftly condemned the incident.
“What happened is rejected, and we condemn it,” Eyad al-Bozom said in a statement issued by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza. He urged the station’s officials to cooperate with investigators.
AFP reporters at the scene found a number of video cameras and computers badly damaged, with chairs and doors destroyed.
The TV station was able to continue broadcasting from Gaza later in the day. The attack was widely condemned by other Palestinian political factions and by journalists.
In March 2018, the PA blamed Hamas for a bomb attack on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. The group denied the claim and later said its security forces killed the chief suspect in the attack.
There has long been antipathy between Hamas, which won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and is opposed to any peace negotiations with Israel, and with Abbas’s more moderate and secular Fatah faction.
The two rivals have failed to end the divisions since 2007.
Palestine TV stopped working completely following the 2007 seizure and only resumed work partially in 2011.
Egypt has brokered a Palestinian reconciliation pact that provides for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas, but a dispute over power-sharing has hindered implementation of the deal.