Israel bombs Gaza tower housing media offices of AP, Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera offices attacked
The Gaza tower housing AP, Al Jazeera and other media offices is seen during a jet attack on Gaza city yesterday. Image: Mohammed Salem/RNZ/Reuters

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Israel destroyed an 11-storey tower block in Gaza that houses offices of US-based Associated Press (AP) and Qatar-based Al Jazeera global television network, claiming the building was also used by the Islamist militant group Hamas, reports RNZ News.

The Al Jalaa building in Gaza City, which also houses other media offices and apartments, had been evacuated after the owner received advanced warning of the strike.

A Palestinian journalist was wounded in the strike, Palestinian media reported, and debris and shrapnel flew dozens of yards away.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets struck a multi-storey building “which contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the Hamas terror organisation”. It said it had provided advance warning to civilians in the building, allowing them to get out.

AP president and chief executive Gary Pruitt called the strike “an incredibly disturbing development”. He said a dozen AP journalists and freelancers had been in the building and had been evacuated in time.

“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organisations in Gaza,” he said in a statement.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”

‘Barbaric’, says Al Jazeera
The US government said it had told Israel to ensure the safety of journalists.

“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted.

AP statement on Israeli attack on news media offices in Gaza.

Al Jazeera Media Network acting director-general Dr Mostefa Souag called the strike “barbaric” and said Israel should be held accountable.

“The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza,” he said in a statement.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus rejected the notion that Israel was seeking to silence the media.

“That is totally false, the media is not the target,” he told Reuters.

Conricus called the building a legitimate military target, saying it contained Hamas military intelligence.

He said Hamas might have calculated that by placing their “assets” inside a building with news media offices in it “they probably hoped that would keep them safe from Israeli attack”.

‘Everything … just vanished’
The Israeli military has said during nearly a week of intense conflict that its strikes on buildings in Gaza are aimed at hitting targets used by Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the enclave.

An Al Jazeera report on the strike on its English-language website quoted journalist Safwat al-Kahlout as saying: “I have been working here for 11 years. I have been covering many events from this building, we have lived personal professional experiences. Now everything, in two seconds, just vanished.”

Hamas militants have fired more than 2000 rockets at Israel during the latest violence.

Palestinian medics say at least 140 people, including 39 children, have been killed in Gaza. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.

Pro-Palestinian protests in NZ
More than 2000 people took part in a rally in Auckland – and demonstrations took place all over New Zealand – to mark Nakba Day yesterday.

Nakba Day, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, remembers the 1948 event when there was a mass ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land by Israeli militias.

Many posters and placards criticised New Zealand media for alleged bias against Palestinians over the reporting of the the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Palestinian protesters target NZ media "bias"
Palestinian protesters target NZ media “bias” at the Nakba Day rally in Auckland yesterday. Image: David Robie/APR
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