Israel raids Palestinian publisher, warns against printing Hamas dailies

RAMALLAH West Bank Wed May 28, 2014 6:33pm BST

RAMALLAH West Bank (Reuters) - A Palestinian publishing house said Israeli forces raided its headquarters in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday morning and warned it not to publish papers close to the militant group Hamas.

Palestinian officials criticised the move, saying it violated their freedom of expression. Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

The headquarters of the al-Ayyam newspaper began publishing three pro-Hamas newspapers earlier this month after a reconciliation between the Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah. The agreement ended their seven-year political rift and a mutual ban on media friendly to their rivals in their respective strongholds in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In a statement, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate condemned the dawn raid on al-Ayyam's printing press, saying "Israeli authorities informed the newspaper that it would not allow the printing and distribution of newspapers that allegedly incite against Israel, referring to the three newspapers - Falastin, al-Resala and al-Istiqlal."

Israel objects to the unity moves and considers Hamas, which has refused to recognise Israel or relinquish its arms, a terrorist group.

Palestinians hope to reconcile Hamas's militant stance with Fatah leaders' willingness to negotiate with Israeli in order to achieve statehood in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in a 1967 war.

"The raid into the borders of the Palestinian state and the violation of its sovereignty and its media institutions is a flagrant attack on Palestinians' basic human rights and a violation of norms along with international and humanitarian laws that ensure freedom of opinion and expression," top Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

(Reporting By Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning; Editing by Larry King)

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