Israel on Saturday bombed and demolished a building that housed international media offices including the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera in the Gaza Strip. Israel on Saturday morning particularly targeted the buildings that housed international media houses. Casualties in the bombing were not immediately clear. The reason why the building was attacked is also unclear.
The building, according to Israeli military, was also home of Khalil al-Hayeh, one of the topmost leaders of Hamas, Gaza's ruling militant group. According to the Israeli military, Al-Hayeh's home served as the militant group's "terrorist infrastructure" and was one of the vital targets that were destroyed in Saturday's attack.
Razed to Dust
Live Al Jazeera video showed the 11-storey al-Jalaa building, which houses the AP news agency bureau along with several other residences and other offices, crashing to the ground after being bombed as dust and debris flew into the air. The owner of the building reportedly had received prior warning about the strike from the Israeli military.
Harrowing footages show journalists preparing to evacuate the building moments before the air strike. The news agency's staff vacated the building immediately. Al-Jazeera also did a live broadcast of the airstrike demolishing the AP office inside the building.
AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said they were seeking information from the Israeli government and were engaged with the US State Department.
"This is an incredibly disturbing development," he said in a statement. "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. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today."
It was not immediately clear if there were casualties in Saturday's attack.
Experts feel that Saturday's airstrike on the offices of AP, Al Jazeera and other media outlets were in a bid to shut out the rest of the world from what was happening in Gaza. At least 139 people, including children, have been killed in Gaza since Israeli attacks began earlier this week.
However, Israeli military said that it target was to demolish the operation hub of one of Hamas' top leaders Khalil al-Hayeh, which also hosted "military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the terror organization".
"The building also hosted offices of civilian media outlets, which the Hamas terror group hides behind and uses as human shields," it said. But it provided no evidence to back up the claims.
"I have been working in this office for more than 10 years and I have never seen anything [suspicious]," Al Jazeera's Safwat al-Kahlout, reporting from Gaza City, said. Al-Kahlout also said that he will long remember the panic that started after learning that the building will be bomber in minutes.
"I have been covering lots of events from this building," the journalist was quoted as saying by the television channel. "We have lots of good memories with our colleagues". Al-Kahlout said a resident of the building received a call from the Israeli army warning of the impending attack about an hour before it was hit.
Israel's military said the airstrikes were in retaliation for the Palestinian militant group Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Multiple countries have condemned the violence and airstrikes between the two foes.
Reacting to the news of the attack, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration had told the Israelis that the safety and security of journalists was "a paramount responsibility".