Journalists from the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other international news outlets were forced to flee for their lives on Saturday, when Israeli forces bombed their high-rise office building in Gaza City.
The missile attack, one of several attempts by Israeli forces to kneel journalists in the region, left the Associated Press “shocked and frightened” and Al Jazeera said it was a war crime.
About an hour before the strike, a resident of the 12-story building received a call, reportedly warning the Israeli military of an imminent attack, but gave no explanation as to why the building was being targeted Was.
Several networks, including Al Jazeera, showed the building collapsing on live television.
“We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “Because of what happened today, the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza.”
Pruitt said Israel had long known that the building housed international media outlets. Later the Israeli Air Force stated that the attack was an appropriate act of war because the building was the center of Hamas. It claimed without evidence that the building contained “military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the Hamas terrorist organization.”
The Israeli Air Force said, “The building had civilian media offices, which the Hamas terrorist organization hides and uses as a human shield.” “Hamas terrorist organization deliberately targets military bases in the midst of densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip.”
It is not clear whether there was still someone in the building when it was demolished. The AP said that a dozen journalists and freelancers were inside but all managed to escape.
After receiving the warning, Al Jazeera reporter Safwat al-Kahlaut said that he and his colleagues “started collecting as much as they could from the office’s personal and equipment, especially cameras.”
“I’ve been working here for 11 years. I’ve been covering a lot of events from this building,” he said in an interview with his own outlet. “Now everything, in two seconds, just vanished. “
One of the Associated Press’ Gaza correspondents, Fares Akram, tweeted that he was watching from afar and hoping that the army would not pass through his threat.
“And now the bombs can fall on our office,” he wrote. “We ran down the stairs from the 11th floor and now looking at the building from afar, praying that the Israeli army would eventually retreat.”
According to the White House, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, President Joe Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.” But he “expressed concern about the safety and security of journalists and stressed the need to ensure their safety.”
In a separate call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Biden stressed the US commitment to strengthen ties and called for calm.
The White House said, “President Biden updated President Abbas on US diplomatic engagement over the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to cease rocket firing in Israel.” “He expressed his shared concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amidst the ongoing violence. The President expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom and economic opportunity to which they are entitled. “
Earlier on Saturday, another Israeli airstrike devastated a three-story house in a refugee camp in Gaza City, killing eight children and two mothers, and as the sole survivor of the family for 5 months. The child was released.
In response, Hamas fired rockets into Israel to avenge the “massacre”, which was called the deadliest of Israeli attacks since the conflict at the holy site of Jerusalem, revered by Palestinians and Jews six days earlier.
Eyewitnesses told reporters that the attack occurred when victims gathered to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.
“There were no warnings,” Jamal al-Nazi, who lives in the destroyed building, told the Associated Press.
Directing his remarks towards Israel, he said: “You filmed people for food and then bombed them? Why are you facing us? Go and face powerful people!”
The deceased were identified by Haaretz as 36-year-old Maha al-Hadidi and their four children: Suhaib, 14; ‘Abd e-Rahman, 8; Osama, 4, and Yahya, 11. Her infant, Omar, was reportedly found alive in the rubble protected by her mother’s body. 31-year-old Jasmin Hassan and her three children were also killed: Yosef, 11; Bilal, 10, and Ala, 5.
On Saturday, the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry said 139 Palestinians, including 39 children and 22 women, have been killed since Monday. Israel has reported eight deaths.