The Israel Defense Forces said the building contained “Hamas military intelligence assets.” The IDF accused Hamas of treating journalists as “human shields”.
And the Foreign Press Association in Israel, a nonprofit organization representing hundreds of journalists, expressed “deep concern and dismay” at the targeting of the building.
“Knowingly provoking the destruction of the offices of some of the world’s largest and most influential news organizations raises deeply worrying questions about Israel’s willingness to interfere with press freedom to operate,” said the association. “The security of other press offices in Gaza is now in question.”
The association called for an immediate meeting with Israeli officials.
In addition, the defense forces said in a statement that the building housed a Hamas research and development unit operating technological equipment against Israel, which was “a unique asset for the Hamas terrorist organization.”
Al Jazeera, the Qatari network owned by offices around the world, was not satisfied with any of the explanations. Mostefa Souag, acting managing director of Al Jazeera Media Network, called it a “flagrant violation of human rights and is internationally considered a war crime”.
“The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and hide the carnage and untold suffering of the people of Gaza,” Souag said in a statement. Israeli officials presented the bombing as an attempt to silence Hamas, not the media.
No one was killed in the attack, but it was a close call, the United States-based Associated Press said.
“We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of human life,” said Gary Pruitt, CEO of AP. “A dozen PA journalists and freelancers were inside the building and luckily we were able to evacuate them in time.”
Pruitt said the PA was “shocked and horrified” by the attack, and concluded his statement by saying: “the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today. hui “.
The IDF, citing “clear international law,” said on Saturday that “when Hamas uses a large building for military purposes, it becomes a legal military target.”
But his sterile words may not live up to the emotional and visceral reactions to the videos of the building collapse, which aired live on Al Jazeera and shared widely on social media on Saturday.
US officials have reacted quickly to express support for press freedom.
“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a primary responsibility,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Later that day, Pruitt said that “the Israeli government said the building contained Hamas military intelligence assets. We called on the Israeli government to present evidence. The PA office has been in this building since then. 15 years. We had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something that we actively verify to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly endanger our journalists. ”
The PA’s story of the bombing suggested that the burden of proof was on Israel. Regarding the IDF’s justification for using journalists as human shields, the article noted that Israel “has not provided any evidence to support these claims.”
The story added: “It was also unclear why the military destroyed an entire building filled with press offices and residential apartments. simple apartments. “