GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - A France-based satellite provider is halting broadcasts of the Hamas TV channel to Europe and parts of the Arab world because of concerns it spreads incitement, a station official said Tuesday.
The decision will deprive Gaza-based al-Aqsa TV of most of its viewers, the channel's head, Hazem Sharawy, said.
The Hamas station - best known for its children's programs glorifying violence against Israel - is the centerpiece of a growing media operation of Gaza's hard-line Hamas rulers. Losing the satellite provider will hamper the group's attempts to spread its message and raise funds abroad.
The decision to cut off the Hamas station came six years after a similar move by France and the United States against al-Manar, the channel of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.
In Paris, Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor said that last week the French broadcasting regulator CSA ordered it to stop beaming the Hamas channel into Europe by June 26.
Al-Aqsa TV is part of a package of channels transmitted by the Bahrain-based satellite operator Noorsat, which passes them in a single signal to Eutelsat, O'Connor said.
Eutelsat has passed on the CSA's order to stop transmitting al-Aqsa TV to Noorsat. O'Connor said it was up to Noorsat to block the al-Aqsa TV signal.
Sharawy said Noorsat called late Monday, telling al-Aqsa TV that its programs incite to hatred.
The al-Aqsa chief alleged that the decision was politically motivated and meant to silence criticism of Israel. "The enemy [Israel] can kill us, destroy our lands, and blockade us," Sharawy charged. "But we aren't allowed to expose them."
The satellite transmissions, which reach Europe, North Africa, and parts of the Persian Gulf, are expected to be halted Thursday, Sharawy said. The channel is not beamed to the United States.
Al-Aqsa's second satellite provider reaches viewers only in the Middle East, he said. Viewers can also still watch the station on the Internet.