, Gaza Strip
(AP) — Israel
’s ambassador to the United States
said Tuesday that Hamas
militants attempted to disrupt Israel’s Iron Dome rocket
defense system from a Gaza building housing
The Associated Press
and other news
organizations, prompting the Israeli air force to destroy the high rise last month. The AP said it has not seen any evidence to support the claim.
Ambassador Gilad Erdan issued his statement a day after meeting with the Associated Press's president
, Gary Pruitt
, and Ian Phillips, vice president for international news, at the AP's headquarters in New York
The Israeli air force bombed the 12-story al-Jalaa tower on May 15, roughly an hour after ordering all occupants to evacuate; no one was injured, but the building was destroyed; it housed offices for the Associated Press, the Al Jazeera
satellite channel, and dozens of families.
The airstrike occurred during Israel's 11-day conflict with Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group.
Erdan said in a tweet that he told AP executives that Hamas used the building to disrupt the Iron Dome, which intercepted hundreds of incoming rockets fired by the militant group during the fighting.
Erdan stated that the airstrike did not target journalists
“The Associated Press is one of the world’s most important news organizations, and Israel does not believe its employees were aware that a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this manner,” he said.
“I reaffirmed that Israel values press freedom
and works to ensure the safety of journalists wherever they report, and that Israel is willing to assist AP in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza,” he said.
The meeting with Erdan “was a positive and constructive conversation,” according to the AP, which thanked him for his pledges to help rebuild an AP bureau in Gaza.
The Associated Press reiterated its demand for evidence to back up Israel's claim that Hamas militants were operating in the building.
“Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat,” the AP said, adding that “we have yet to receive evidence to support these claims.” “The AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public,” the AP said.
The Associated Press has repeatedly urged Israel to share any evidence it has that supports its claims of Hamas activity in the building, as well as an independent investigation
into the incident.