In the second instance of airstrikes on buildings housing offices of news media this week, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombed a building in Gaza city that housed the offices of international media organizations like the Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday.
Though the IDF gave media personnel one hour to evacuate, their claim that the building was bombed because of the presence of Hamas operatives sounds odd, because advance notice to journalists can also act as advance notice to said operatives. Therefore, no real purpose was served by bombing the building other than drive away journalists who were showcasing ground realities of the renewal of armed conflict in the region.
Al Jazeera took to Twitter to point out that their journalists were not given permission to take their equipment and reminded Israel that targeting journalists is a war crime.
According to a report by the AP, their staffers and tenants were evacuated after a warning by phone “that a strike was imminent in an hour.” AP reported, “Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.”
The IDF took to Twitter to claim that it had provided adequate time to media-persons to evacuate, and had only attacked the building as it was found to be housing Hamas operatives.
In another Twitter thread the IDF further tried to justify the airstrike saying, “Hamas has turned residential areas in the Gaza Strip into military strongholds. It uses tall buildings in Gaza for multiple military purposes such as intelligence gathering, planning attacks, command and control, and communications,” adding, “When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target.”
But NPR’s Jerusalem based international correspondent Daniel Estrin raised several key points in an interview with Mark Regev, Senior Adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, that he then posted on Twitter. He specifically grilled Regev on the claim about Hamas operatives wondering how giving journalists warning would not also give said operatives adequate time to evacuate?
But Regev said they were “trying to find the right balance” between protecting innocent lives and accomplishing tactical goals.
Regev remained evasive about how long IDF had known about the presence of Hamas operatives in the building or why this was never mentioned to the media is the past.
This shows nothing but callous disregard for lives of journalists, and also does not make any sense from a tactical point of view either.
The Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement demanding a detailed and documented justification. “This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We demand that the Israeli government provide a detailed and documented justification for this military attack on a civilian facility given the possible violation of international humanitarian law,” he said adding, “Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it.”
CPJ has been documenting how the IDF has been targeting media ever since armed conflict was reignited in the region. “On May 11 and 12, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed the Al-Jawhara and Al-Shorouk office buildings in Gaza City, which house more than a dozen international and local media outlets,” CPJ had reported. As per CPJ, this 12-storied building also housed multiple news media outlets such as: London-based Qatari broadcaster Al-Araby TV, News website and newspaper Felestin (Palestine), Kata’eb Hezbollah-affiliated Iraqi broadcaster Al-Etejah TV, Pro-Fatah broadcaster Al-Kofiya TV, Jordanian broadcaster Al-Mamlaka, Pro-Hamas outlet Sabq24 News Agency, News website Al-Bawaba 24, Production company Watania News Agency, and Media rights group Forum of Palestinian Journalists.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu remains firm on his stand that the IDF’s actions were for the protection of Israeli interests. In a televised address, Netanyahu said, “It’s been five days since Hamas brazenly fired rockets at Jerusalem and other Israeli cities in a totally unprovoked attack. This past week, millions of Israelis were forced into bomb shelters, as missiles rained down on our cities.” He went on to say, “Several Israelis have been killed, many more have been wounded. You know, and I know, no country will tolerate this. Israel will not tolerate this.”
Netanyahu reiterated, “Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks, and we will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is reinstated and restored.” He stuck to the official line of targeting Hamas terrorists, and that Hamas was not only targeting Israeli civilians but also using Palestinian civilians as human shields. He insisted warning civilians to evacuate the building which was bombed today was an example of Israel’s commitment to protecting civilian lives.
“I want to thank President Biden for his clear and unequivocal support,” said Netanyahu flaunting US support for the attack.
*Feature image: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Defense Minister Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Kohavi, at the Air Force’s operations center in order to follow closely the massive airstrikes the IDF has carried out against Hamas’ terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip. Picture via official Twitter account of PM of Israel.