An Israeli airstrike on a 12-story building in Gaza City housing
offices for The Associated Press
, Al Jazeera
, and other media
outlets sparked outrage from press advocates on Saturday, with AP leadership calling it an “incredibly disturbing” development in the conflict.
“We are shocked and appalled that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building that houses the AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt
in a statement.
According to Pruitt, the Israeli military "long knew the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there." The agency received a warning that the building would be attacked, giving time for evacuations.
“This is an extremely disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building, and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time,” Pruitt said, adding, “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza as a result of what happened today.”
According to Pruitt, the AP is seeking information on the bombing
from Israel and is "engaged" with the US State Department.
According to Jen Psaki
, White House press secretary
, the administration has "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility."
The attack on press offices came a day after an IDF
spokesman misled the international press corps by claiming that Israeli ground forces had entered Gaza when they had not. While the spokesman claimed that the error was unintentional, prominent Israeli news outlets claimed that it was a deliberate attempt to smoke out Hamas
We have told the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media outlets is a top priority.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) May 15, 2021
According to video and reports from the scene, the building that housed the media offices was mostly residential, and it collapsed into a massive cloud of dust.
Earlier in the day, another air raid
on a refugee camp killed at least ten Palestinians
, mostly children
, in what amounted to Israel's deadliest single strike in the current conflict, which erupted earlier this month, killing at least 139 people
, including 39 children, according to the Associated Press.
The Israeli Defense Forces justified the strike in a series of tweets, claiming that the militant group Hamas had "converted residential areas in the Gaza Strip
into military strongholds."
“It uses tall buildings in Gaza for a variety of military purposes, including intelligence gathering, attack planning, command and control, and communications,” the IDF stated, adding that “when Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target.”
When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a legal military target.— Israel Defense Forces
(@IDF) May 15, 2021
3/ The Israel Defense Forces have struck a number of such structures in recent days, but we took precautions to ensure that civilians are not harmed.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 15, 2021
The IDF said it called the building's residents, sent SMS messages, and dropped "roof knocker" bombs, which make a loud noise on rooftops to warn people to evacuate.
The images of press offices being destroyed, according to Aidan White, founder of the Ethical Journalism
Network, are "disgraceful."
“The threat to civilian life is completely unacceptable, and I believe it highlights the perilous risks that journalists and media in conflict zones face,” White told the network, which is funded by the Qatari government.
The attack was also condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, which labeled it intentional.
@IFJGlobal condemns the bombing of the al-Jalaa building in #Gaza, which housed media outlets such as Al Jazeera @AlJazeera and Associated Press @APIsrael must stop the systematic targeting of media! @antonioguterres @Irenekhanhttps://t.co/SsdJnNMTr9— IFJ (@IFJGlobal) May 15, 2021
The scale of Israel's response to rocket
attacks from the Gaza Strip has prompted a noticeable increase in criticism, including from elected officials who have long refrained from criticizing the US ally. A growing number of Democrats
in the House have begun speaking out against Israel's attacks, led by Michigan
Rep. Rashida Tlaib
, who is Palestinian American.