Israeli jets leveled a 12-story housing complex containing the media offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera in Gaza last month amid the IDF’s campaign against Hamas militants firing rockets into Israel.
The tower was one of an estimated 1,000 housing units destroyed, and 1,800 made unfit for living, in 11 days of fighting.
Hamas militants were developing “jamming equipment” to disrupt Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system inside the Gaza tower razed by Israeli warplanes on 15 May, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has said.
The ambassador went on to praise the Associated Press (AP), which fired a Jewish journalist over her pro-Palestinian tweets last month, and said Israel did not suspect AP journalists of being aware of the Gaza building’s alleged use by Hamas engineers.
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“Israel did everything to ensure no employees or civilians were hurt during this operation,” Erdan continued, going on to call Hamas a “genocidal terrorist organisation that purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in buildings being used by international media outlets.” The diplomat added that Israel was “willing to assist” AP in rebuilding its Gaza offices.
Israeli planes demolished the media tower during the escalation of tensions between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza into a full-scale military confrontation last month, with an IDF officer calling the building’s owner and giving him 10 minutes to evacuate the tower before the attack.
The IDF previously claimed that Hamas militants had used the Gaza tower as a military intelligence outpost, and Tel Aviv reportedly informed Washington that they had provided the White House with “smoking gun” proof of Hamas’s operations inside the building.
AP, Al-Jazeera, International Federation of Journalists, and Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders all condemned the strike, with AP saying in a statement that it was “shocked and horrified” by the building’s destruction and adding that Israel had “long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there.”
The media tower was one of hundreds of buildings in Gaza bombed by Israel during last month’s fighting, with the office of the Qatar Red Crescent also hit by an Israeli airstrike, with no prior notice given in that incident.
Late last month, unnamed Israeli officials speaking to the New York Times expressed regret over the media tower strike, saying that the perceived benefits of destroying the alleged Hamas outpost were outweighed by the damage done to Israel’s reputation.
However, the Israeli military has remained defiant, with IDF chief Aviv Kochavi saying recently that he didn’t have “a gram of regret” about the bombing, and insisting that he had “privately” shared with journalists that whether they knew it or not, they were “enjoying morning coffee with Hamas operatives” in the tower. AP called the “morning coffee” claims a hoax, saying there “was not even a cafeteria in the building,” and demanding an independent investigation into the destruction of their offices.
Hamas and Israel agreed to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire on 20 May after 11 days of violence which killed over 250 people, including 64 children, in Gaza, and 13 people inside Israel. Twenty-seven Palestinians were also killed in the West Bank.