Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected criticism of an Israeli airstrike targeting a high-rise building hosting foreign media offices in the Gaza strip. The al-Jala tower, which housed offices of the US news agency Associated Press (AP) and the Qatari television station Al Jazeera, among others, was destroyed by an Israeli air force attack on Saturday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended the strike on the Gaza tower that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, alleging it also hosted the intelligence office of Hamas.
“The intelligence office for the Hamas (was) housed in that building that plots and organizes the attacks against Israeli civilians,” Netanyahu told CBS News.
“So it is a perfectly legitimate target. I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries, in fact, no deaths.”
Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas presence in the building in a call later Saturday with President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said, “We pass it through our intelligence people.”
Netanyahu gave no time frame for when Israel would be ready to halt its side of the fighting after nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages. “We hope that it doesn’t continue very long, but we were attacked by Hamas,” he said.
Asked about reports that Hamas had agreed to an Egypt-brokered cease-fire but Israel had not, he said, “That’s not what I know.”
Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. Such reasoning is routinely given for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings. The military also has accused Hamas of using journalists as human shields, but provided no evidence to back up the claims.
“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
In the afternoon, the military called the building’s owner and warned a strike would come within an hour. AP staffers and other occupants evacuated safely. Soon after, three missiles hit the building and destroyed it, bringing it crashing down in a giant cloud of dust.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” Pruitt said. “We are shocked and horrified.”