Israeli airstrike destroyed building that housed media offices (file photo) Photograph:( Reuters )
AP journalists and other tenants were safely evacuated from the 12-storey al-Jalaa tower after the Israeli military warned of an imminent strike on Saturday
News organisations demanded an explanation for an Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the offices of The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media outlets.
AP journalists and other tenants were safely evacuated from the 12-storey al-Jalaa tower after the Israeli military warned of an imminent strike on Saturday. Three heavy missiles hit the building within the hour, disrupting coverage of the ongoing conflict between militant group Hamas and Israel. At least 145 people in Gaza and eight in Israel have been killed since the fighting erupted on Monday night.
"The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today," AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said. He said the American news agency was seeking information from the Israeli government and engaging with the US State Department to learn more.
Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of Al Jazeera Media Network, called the strike a 'war crime' and a 'clear act' to stop journalists from reporting on the conflict. Kuwait state television also had office space in the now-collapsed Gaza City building.
"The targeting of news organisations is completely unacceptable, even during an armed conflict. It represents a gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms," Barbara Trionfi, the executive director of the International Press Institute, said.
In a standard Israeli response, the military said that Hamas was operating inside the building, and it accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields. But it provided no evidence to back up the claims.
Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus claimed that Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development. He said "a highly advanced technological tool that the militant group used in the fighting was within or on the building."
But Conricus said he could not provide evidence to back up the claims without 'compromising' intelligence efforts. He added, however: "I think it's a legitimate request to see more information, and I will try to provide it."
(With inputs from agencies)