An Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed Jala Tower a highrise building that housed offices of the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera among other media outlets in Gaza City. The Israelis said that it also housed “an important base of operations for Hamas’s military intelligence.”
“The base gathered intel for attacks against Israel, manufactured weapons & positioned equipment to hamper IDF operations,” the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement on Twitter.
There was universal outrage against the IDF for destroying the media tower. “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a released statement. “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”
“This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” Pruitt said, adding that the AP was urging the U.S. State Department to answer questions about the targeting of the building and was still seeking information from the Israeli government.
The Jala Tower building was a 12-story highrise that housed several media outlets and apartments. It was hit by three missiles before toppling over.
For more than a decade, Jala Tower was the site from where Al Jazeera and the AP reported in Gaza and frequently showed Hamas rockets launching toward Israel and IDF airstrikes reigning down in the city.
Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, denied that Hamas was using the highrise. “Apart from the tenants, there are some offices of lawyers, engineers and some media agencies including Al Jazeera and AP. Nothing else,” said Mehdi to Al Jazeera.
But lost in the condemnation of the Israelis was the fact that the IDF warned the residents an hour prior to the airstrike to minimize civilian casualties.
Israel Says That It Gave Ample Warning
“The building housed the offices of civilian media, which the terrorist organization Hamas hides behind and uses as human shields,” the IDF said in a statement. “The terror organization Hamas deliberately places its military assets in the heart of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. Prior to the attack, the IDF warned the civilians who were in the building and gave them sufficient time to evacuate.”
“We warned civilians in the building about our strike, out of concern for their safety & gave them enough time to safely evacuate. Hamas & Islamic Jihad used this time to take items out of the building. We were willing to pay that price to not harm any civilians,” the IDF added.
According to sources, President Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Israelis shared the intelligence that Hamas was using the building.
“We showed [to the U.S.] the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said to the Jerusalem Post. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.” This has not been reported on by other large news media.
A few hours later, the Israeli airforce (IAF) bombed the home of a top leader of Gaza’s ruling militant Hamas group. The IDF said it also struck the homes of Yehiyeh Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory, and his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it also destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’s political branch.
The Israelis are targeting Hamas’s top political leadership and not just military commanders. Al-Hayeh’s fate after the strike was not immediately known. Most Hamas political and military leaders are currently in hiding.