Press freedom advocates condemned Saturday’s Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza that housed foreign media offices, including the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
After being struck by missiles, the 12-story al-Jalaa tower, which also housed apartments and other offices, collapsed in a giant dust cloud, disrupting coverage of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the United States. Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip. intensified last week, killing dozens.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, and journalists and other tenants were safely evacuated after the IDF gave advance warning of an impending strike.
The IDF defended targeting the tower, claiming Hamas had a military intelligence office in the building and used journalists as human shields. He did not provide evidence of intelligence operations in the building, and the PA questioned that claim.
In a personal account of the evacuation, PA correspondent Fares Akram wrote that it was “one of the most gruesome scenes I have ever witnessed”.
The top-floor offices and roof terrace of the now-destroyed building provided a prime location for The Associated Press’s coverage of the fighting in Gaza, including 24-hour live footage of the territory.
Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of The Associated Press – one of the world’s largest news agencies, based in New York – said in a statement on Saturday that he was “shocked and horrified” by the strike.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” he added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Pruitt after the building was destroyed, offering his “unwavering support to independent journalists and media organizations around the world,” the State Department said in a statement.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki also said in a tweet that the United States has communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is “a primary responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Mostefa Souag, acting managing director of Al-Jazeera Media Network, called the tower strike a “war crime”, before calling on all media and human rights institutions to denounce it.
The Washington-based National Press Club has also questioned whether Israel seeks “to undermine independent and accurate coverage of the conflict,” while the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said. that Israel should “provide a detailed and documented justification”. for the attack.
Elsewhere, Barbara Trionfi, the executive director of the International Press Institute in Vienna, Austria, also called the strike “totally unacceptable”.
representative Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, said in a tweet that Israel was targeting the media “so that the world cannot see Israel’s war crimes.” Tlaib, who is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and is a frequent critic of Israel, added: “This is so that the world cannot see the Palestinians slaughtered.”
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On Sunday, Israel said the office had gathered intelligence on the attacks on Israel, reiterating it had warned civilians in the building against the attack and given them sufficient time to evacuate safely.
However, PA chairman Pruitt said the news agency had been in the building for 15 years and had “no indication” that Hamas was operating in the building, before asking the Israeli government to provide. proofs.
Al Jazeera producer Safwat al-Kahlout said people rushed to evacuate the building, adding that he had not seen anything “suspicious” working in the office for more than 10 years.
“Now you can understand the feeling of people whose homes have been destroyed by this kind of airstrikes,” he said in a comment to the broadcaster. “It’s really hard to wake up one day and then you realize that your office is not there with all the career experiences, the memories that you have had.