The Israeli air strike in Gaza destroys buildings with the AP office and other media
An Israeli air strike destroyed a skyscraper in Gaza City that housed Associated Press and other media offices hours after another Israeli air strike on a densely populated refugee campmostly children.
The high-rise Saturday strike came almost an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building that housed Al-Jazeera, other offices and residential units. The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a huge cloud of dust.
“The world will know less about what happened in Gaza because of today’s events,” said Gary Pruitt, AP CEO and president, in a statement.
Pruitt said the office “received a warning” prior to the strike, but said they were “shocked and appalled that the Israeli military was attacking and destroying the building” and called it “an incredibly worrying development”.
“We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were in the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in good time,” said Pruitt.
The strike at the building’s media offices came in the afternoon after the owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that the building would be hit. AP staff and others in the building were immediately evacuated and reported safe.
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar government-funded news network, broadcast the air strikes live when the building collapsed.
“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” said an on-air host from Al-Jazeera English in an emotional voice. “We can guarantee you that now.”
The Israeli military alleged Hamas was operating in the building and accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but did not provide any further evidence. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told reporters Saturday that the military had gathered information about Hamas’ activities in the building. He declined to offer any further details.
President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. Netanyahu updated Mr. Biden “on the developments and actions Israel has taken and the actions Israel intends to take,” according to an advertisement for the Israelis’ appeal to Netanyahu.
A White House lecture on the Netanyahu call said Mr. Biden had “raised concerns about the safety of journalists and increased the need to protect them” and “shared grave concerns about intercommunal violence across Israel” . While Mr Biden “reiterated his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself,” the White House also said he “expressed concern about violent confrontations in the West Bank”.
“He expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom and economic opportunity they deserve, and reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution. The heads of state and government agreed to continue the close consultation between their teams and to stay in touch in the coming days, “the White House said.
In his invitation to Abbas, Mr. Biden conveyed the “US commitment to strengthening the US-Palestine partnership,” according to a White House invitation.
“President Biden briefed President Abbas on the US diplomatic engagement with the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel. They shared their concern about innocent civilians, including children, being involved in the sustained violence tragically lost their lives. ” said the White House.
Earlier on Saturday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a tweet that the White House had spoken to the Israeli government about the strike.
“We have told Israelis directly that ensuring the safety of journalists and independent media is a priority,” said Psaki.
The earlier Israeli air strike on the refugee camp in Gaza City was the deadliest single strike in the current conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas, in which eight children and two women from an extended family were killed.
Mohammed Hadidi told reporters that his wife and five children went to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with relatives. She and three of the children, ages 6-14, were killed while an 11-year-old is missing. It is known that only his 5 month old son Omar survived.
Children’s toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen in the rubble, as were plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.
“There was no warning,” said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor who lives in the same building. “You filmed people eating and then bombed them?” he said and addressed Israel. “Why are you confronting us? Go confront the strong people!”
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel in response to the air strike.
Israel also bombed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a top leader of the ruling Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip, on Saturday.
The Israeli military said Al-Hayeh’s house was part of the militant group’s “terrorist infrastructure”. Al-Hayeh is a high-ranking figure in Hamas’ political leadership in Gaza, and the attack marked further escalation, signaling that Israel is seeking the top leadership of Hamas, not just military commanders. His fate after the strike was not immediately known.
The final round of violence began earlier this month in East Jerusalem with Palestinian protests against the evictions of Sheikh Jarrah and Israeli police operations at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent hotspot on a mountain in the Old City that is revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem late Monday to present itself as the champion of the demonstrators.
Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will pay “a very high price” for its rocket attacks as Israel rallies troops at the border. Mr Biden previously expressed his support for Israel and said he hoped to bring the violence under control.
According to the Israeli military, Hamas has fired around 2,000 rockets at Israel since Monday. Most have been intercepted by missile defense systems, but they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, disrupted airports and set off airstrike sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The violence has spread across the region over the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and unrest in mixed cities in Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests on Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot 11 people.
The increasing violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada” or uprising if peace talks have not taken place for years. The Palestinians celebrated Nakba (catastrophe) day on Saturday, commemorating the estimated 700,000 people displaced or fled their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war in connection with its creation. This opened up the possibility of further unrest.
U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived on Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the United States Security Council was due to meet on Sunday. But Israel rejected an Egyptian proposal for a year-long ceasefire that Hamas leaders had accepted, an Egyptian official said on Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.
Since Monday evening, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, which has struck the Gaza Strip with strikes. At least 139 people were killed in Gaza, including 39 children and 22 women; Eight people were killed in Israel, including the Saturday of death of a man who was killed by a rocket struck in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
A raging Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their home and displaced thousands to United States-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 fighter jets that dropped around 80 tons of explosives in 40 minutes and managed to destroy a vast Hamas network of tunnels.
Conricus previously said the military aims to minimize collateral damage to hitting military targets. But measures required by other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were “not feasible” this time around.
According to Israeli media, the military believed dozens of militants were killed in the tunnels. Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.