Israel was condemned after it struck a building the Associated Press and other news outlets which it said housed Hamas operations.
After the AP and the Biden administration demanded to see the evidence, Israel has delivered, sharing intelligence that Hamas had high-tech military equipment on the site. The AP denied it knew Hamas had operations on the premises – claims that were put into doubt when readers 7-year-old articles that the AP and other outlets published reporting that Hamas used the building’s parking lot to launch rockets.
Now, Israel has come forth with the reason for its urgency in destroying the building.
Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and UN, Gilad Erdan, said this week that Israel destroyed the building in Gaza because Hamas was using the building to house technology to jam Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Iron Dome is the only defense Israel has when terrorist rockets are fired at its towns and cities. Israeli’s have just minutes to seek shelter when Hamas fires a rocket.
On May 15, in the midst of fighting sparked by the Hamas terror group in Gaza, the Israeli military warned Associated Press staffers and other tenants to evacuate a building housing AP offices and Al Jezera, informing them that a strike was imminent within an hour. Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.
The building was one of dozens of highly targeted facilities struck by Israeli warplanes. Other infrastructure destroyed included over 60 miles of tunnels, ammunition depots, bomb factories and the homes of terrorist leaders. This week, the official UN agency on the ground in Gaza, UNRWA, condemned Hamas for building the tunnels under schools and mosques. It was the first time the UN had admitted to the Hamas practice and came only after Israel showed the evidence.
But hitting a building housing took the response by Israel to a new level.
Erdan tweeted that he met AP CEO Gary Pruitt and senior executives at the news service’s New York headquarters on Monday to explain the reasons Israel took out the building. There were no deaths or injuries reported in the attack as Israel had given all residents advance notice to evacuate.
“The building housing their Gaza operation was being used by Hamas terrorists trying to jam the Iron Dome – that is why it was prioritized by the IDF during last month’s operation,” Erdan tweeted.
“AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel does not suspect its employees were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way,” Erdan said. “Israel did everything to ensure no employees or civilians were hurt during this operation.”
“In contrast,” Erdan said, “Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in buildings being used by international media outlets.”
“I reaffirmed that Israel upholds the importance of press freedom and strives to ensure the safety of journalists wherever they are reporting. Israel is willing to assist AP in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza,” Erdan said.
After the attack last month, Pruitt released a statement saying AP was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”
The meeting with Erdan “was a positive and constructive conversation,” the AP said in a statement. The agency expressed its appreciation for his pledges to help rebuild an AP bureau in Gaza.
Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors shot down many of the more than 4,300 rockets fire from Gaza during the 11-day conflict. The Israeli airstrikes and Gaza rocket fire left more than 250 Palestinians, including 200 Hamas fighters dead. Thirteen Israelis were murdered in the deliberate rockets attacks on communities and hundreds were injured.
The Biden administration has committed to rebuilding Gaza and insists the money will not make it into the hands of Hamas.
Observers say it may be difficult to ensure Hamas does not benefit and build more rockets. A recent video from the al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ military wing) shows them digging up water pipes in Gaza to be used as rocket fuselages.
–Dwight Widaman and wire services