Israeli forces raided Palestinian media offices across the occupied West Bank overnight in what a military spokeswoman yesterday called a "large-scale operation" against incitement.
The raids on eight companies came hours after the Israeli government declared that it would not deal with an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the group made radical changes.
Israeli officials said the raids targeted companies that provide services to Hamas television stations. Notices were posted saying the companies were to be closed for six months.
"Israeli army forces last night raided eight Palestinian production and media companies that provide services to Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds TV channels," the head of an Israeli defense ministry unit known as COGAT, Yoav Mordechai, wrote on Facebook, referring to Hamas channels.
"These two channels broadcast constant incitement against the state of Israel. It is no secret that these two channels inspired, several times, terrorists to go out and commit terrorist attacks against innocents." The Palestinian Authority (PA) said it condemned the raids "in the strongest terms."
"Occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices," PA government spokesman Yusef al-Mahmoud said in a statement.
He said the measures were a "clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides."
A Palestinian journalists' union official in the southern West Bank city of Hebron said the offices of three companies providing production services to Hamas television channels were closed and equipment and documents seized.
They were named as Palmedia, Ramsat and Transmedia, a satellite broadcasting facility where two members of staff were arrested, the union official said. An official with Palmedia told AFP that three of its five offices in the West Bank were closed, including its headquarters in Ramallah as well as in Hebron and Nablus.
Last week, rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas signed a landmark unity deal aimed at ending a decade-long split. Israel said Tuesday it would not negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist movement does not disarm, recognize the country and renounce violence.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept the 2006 legislative elections that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel, and the international community. Hamas has ruled Gaza, while Abbas's Fatah has controlled autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.