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Israel defends destroying building that housed The Associated Press and Al Jazeera in Gaza

Israel claims to have shared 'smoking gun' evidence with the US that Hamas used the destroyed building that housed The Associated Press and Al Jazeera in Gaza City, as news organisations demand answers.  

Government officials said the Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu shared a 'smoking gun' with US President Joe Biden in their phone call on Saturday. 

A source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said: 'We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building'. He added Biden had 'found the explanation satisfactory', without providing details of the evidence.

He said the intelligence had not been shared more widely because the US were the only country to request more information on the strike on the Al-Jalaa building, the Jerusalem Post reported. 

The Israeli Air Force dropped three bombs on the building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust, on Saturday afternoon after giving journalists a one hour warning to evacuate the premises. 

Israel has claimed to have evidence Hamas operated from the Gaza city building housing the offices of the Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and other media outlets

Gaza: The bomb seen hurtling towards the building. Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, said an Israeli intelligence officer warned him he had just one hour to ensure the evacuation of the building

A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen moments after an Israeli airstrike

The strike destroyed the Gaza offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, which has covered events in the Strip from the building for 15 years

Government officials said the Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu shared a 'smoking gun' with US President Joe Biden in their phone call on Saturday. Sources said Biden 'found the explanation satisfactory'

IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said the force had been 'very clear' about the evidence on which the strike was based. 

He said 'a Hamas research and development unit, Hamas military intelligence, and offices of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation' were housed in the building. 

'A building that has Hamas and Islamic Jihad assets in it needs to be brought down', he said, adding he hoped the strike would deter Islamist organisations from using media offices as human shields in the future. 

On Saturday, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus made similar claims 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.' 

During a call on Saturday, Biden told Netanyahu he continues to support Israel's right to defend itself but expressed concern over deaths on both sides.

'He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection,' the White House said.

Biden also reaffirmed the United States 'strong support for Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas' in his call with Netanyahu. 

At least 145 people in Gaza and eight in Israel have been killed since the fighting erupted on Monday night.   

The IDF said in a statement: 'The building housed the offices of civilian media, which the terrorist organisation Hamas hides behind and uses as human shields,

'The terror organisation Hamas deliberately places its military assets in the heart of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.'

The Israeli military has not yet provided any evidence to back up the claims.    

Israel 'destroyed Jala Tower in the Gaza Strip, which contains the Al Jazeera and other international press offices,' Al Jazeera said in a tweet. It was reported the army had warned the tower's owner ahead of the strike on Saturday

A thick column of black smoke rises from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on May 15

The aftermath following the Israeli strike, which destroyed Jala Tower - a 13-floor building housing Al Jazeera television and Associated Press

A thick column of black smoke rises from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on May 15

A ball of fire erupts from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed on May 15. Israeli air strikes pounded the Gaza Strip overnight, killing 10 members of an extended family and demolishing a key media building

A Palestinian policeman looks on at the rubble of the building that house the Associated Press and Al Jazeera's offices in Gaza City after it was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike

Smoke rises from the Jala Tower as it collapses after being bombed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday, May 15

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera both condemned the strike. 

'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 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,' he said, adding that the AP was seeking information from the Israeli government and was engaged with the U.S. State Department to learn more.  

For AP journalists, it was a difficult moment. Most of the AP staff has been sleeping in the bureau, which includes four bedrooms in an upstairs apartment, throughout the current round of fighting, believing that the offices of an international news agency were one of the few safe places in Gaza. 

In a territory crippled by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, it was equipped with a generator that offered the rare comforts of electricity, air conditioning and running water.

For AP journalists, it was a difficult moment. Most of the staff has been sleeping in the bureau, throughout the current round of fighting, believing that the offices of an international news agency were one of the few safe places in Gaza

An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in the Gaza Strip, at the Israel-Gaza border on Saturday

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Malek Hamdan who was killed in clashes with Israeli forces, during his funeral in the village of Salem, near of the West Bank city of Nablus,

Family members who live in the al-Jala tower, a high-rise housing AP and other media offices, flee the building before Israeli airstrikes

Pictured: Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag in the occupied-West Bank town of Bethlehem on May 15,2021, as they commemorate the Nakba, the 'catastrophe' of Israel's creation in 1948

Smoke billows after an Israeli airstrike struck the Andalus Tower in Gaza city, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021

Pictured: Medical personnel from a Palestinian Ambulance carry a Palestinian man who was shot and killed in his vehicle by Israeli soldiers, near the Fawwar refugee camp, south of the West Bank city of Hebron, 15 May 2021

Fire erupts from the Andalus Tower as it is destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, early on May 16, 2021. Israel pummelled the Gaza Strip with air strikes, killing 10 members of an extended family and demolishing a building housing international media outlets

Just a day before the bombing, AP correspondent Fares Akram wrote in a personal story that the AP office was the only place in Gaza were he felt 'somewhat safe.'

'The Israeli military has the coordinates of the high-rise, so it's less likely a bomb will bring it crashing down,' Akram wrote.

The next day, Akram tweeted about running from the building and watching its destruction from afar.

Akram said he was resting in an upstairs room when he heard panicked screams from colleagues about the evacuation order. Staffers hastily gathered basic equipment, including laptops and cameras before fleeing downstairs.

'I am heartbroken,' Akram said. 'You feel like you are at home. Above all, you have your memories, your friends. You spend most of your time there.'   

The Foreign Press Association, which represents some 400 journalists working for international media organisations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, expressed its 'grave concern and dismay' over the attack.

'Knowingly causing the destruction of the offices of some of the world's largest and most influential news organisations raises deeply worrying questions about Israel's willingness to interfere with the freedom of the press,' it said. 'The safety of other news bureaus in Gaza is now in question.'

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the attack raises concerns that Israel is targeting the media 'to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.' He demanded 'detailed and documented justification' for the attack.

The International Press Institute, a global network of journalists and media executives, condemned the attack as a 'gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms.'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed 'unwavering support' for AP and Pruitt terming the wires agency's coverage of conflict zones 'indispensable'

A fireball and smoke billow up into the air during an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City targeting the Ansar compound, linked to the Hamas movement, in the Gaza Strip early on May 15

Palestinians take part in the funeral of the Abu Hatab family in Gaza City on May 15 - an extended family of 10 who were killed early in an Israeli air strike on the western Gaza Strip

This morning, photographs, which are too graphic to publish, show dead children being pulled from the wreckage of homes in Gaza after Israeli air strikes last night. Other pictures show rescuers helping injured children from bombed out homes (pictured)

Excavators work to clear the rubble at the site of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza. Israli military last night targeted the home of Yehiyeh Sinwar. Sinwar is the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory. The Israeli military also launched a strike on the home of his brother

Israeli security forces and emergency services work on a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ramat Gan

A woman surveys the damage in her home after it was struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel

People take cover in a shelter as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza strip, after their building was hit by a rocket couple of minutes before, in Ramat Gan, central Israel

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones amid clashes with Israeli security forces near the Hawara checkpoint south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on May 15, 2021, as Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, the 'catastrophe' of Israel's creation in 1948, which turned hundreds of thousands into refugee

The baby boy is reported to have been found next to the body of his deceased mother. Hamas militants responded by firing more rockets into Israel as their battle entered a fifth consecutive night and a US envoy arrived for talks

A damaged building at the site of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City, today. Crowds can be seen gathering around the remains of the building

Israel last night targeted the home of a top Hamas leader, as its president vowed to continue launching airstrikes on Gaza. Pictured: Smoke rises following air strikes in Gaza

Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed 'unwavering support' for AP and Pruitt terming the wires agency's coverage of conflict zones 'indispensable'. 

For 15 years, the AP's top-floor office and roof terrace were a prime location for covering Israel's conflicts with Gaza's Hamas rulers, including wars in 2009 and 2014. 

The news agency's camera offered 24-hour live shots as militants' rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surrounding area this week. 

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.

'The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza,' he said in a statement.

Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar´s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

'This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,' Halla Mohieddeen. on-air anchorperson for Al-Jazeera English said, her voice thick with emotion. 'We can guarantee you that right now.'

A Palestinian firefighter speaks to colleagues following an Israeli strike on Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15 

Palestinians inspect the damages following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence on May 15

A man gestures as he prepares with others to bury the bodies of Palestinian children and their mother from the Al-Hadidi family, who were killed amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, during their funeral at a cemetery on May 15

Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli airstrikes in town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, on May 14

Palestinians work at the site of destroyed houses in the aftermath of Israeli air and artillery strikes as cross-border violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants continues

A Palestinian man carries the corpse of a toddler, killed in what was believed to have been an Israeli air strike, before his burial in Beit Lahya in the northern Gaza Strip

Damage to buildings in the north of the Gaza Strip is seen on Friday morning after a heavy night of bombing from Israel

As the crisis in the Middle East deepened, and with rocket strikes having now taken place for almost a week, Israeli military chiefs last night launched a missile strike on the home of Yehiyeh Sinwar. Pictured: People walk past debris in the street after an Israeli air strike

A Palestinian man mourns over the bodies of a family member killed in an Israeli air strike yesterday. According to the Gaza health ministry, 174 Palestinians have died since the start of the conflict on Monday

Shocking pictures have shown dead children being pulled from the wreckage of homes in Gaza after another night of air strikes in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Pictured: An injured child is pulled from the wreckage of a home in Gaza following an Israeli air strike

Palestinian firefighters evacuate families from the balcony of a building whose entrance is blocked by rubble after intensive bombardments on Gaza

Israeli beachgoers rush towards shelters in the central city of Tel Aviv on May 15 following the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement towards Israel

Israeli beachgoers take cover in the central city of Tel Aviv on May 15 following the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip 

Tel Aviv residents fled for cover amid wailing sirens as Hamas militants fired barrages of rockets. One hit a residential block in the Ramat Gan suburb, killing a 50-year old man, medics said

Tel Aviv: Israeli beachgoers are seen rushing towards shelters in Tel Aviv. Rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement towards Israel

Israeli beachgoers and a dog are seen rushing towards shelters in the central city of Tel Aviv on May 15 after the launching of rockets

Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians protest along Lebanon-Israel border 

Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians have protested along the Lebanon-Israel border, with some climbing a border wall and triggering Israeli fire that wounded one person.

The protest on Saturday evening in the Lebanese border village of Adaisseh saw hundreds marching and waving Palestinian, Lebanese and yellow flags of the militant Hezbollah group.

Some protesters climbed a high border wall where they placed Palestinian and Hezbollah flags.

Supporters of Hezbollah and the Palestinian revolution faction climb the wall during protest at the Al Odaisseh area opposite the Al-Mutaleh Israeli settlement at the Lebanese border with Israel, 15 May 2021

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that Israeli troops fired warning shots near Adaisseh, wounding one person who was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Lebanese and Palestinians from around Lebanon have been heading to the border to protest against Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip over the past days. On Friday, Israeli troops opened fire at protesters who crossed a border fence, killing a 21-year-old Hezbollah member.

Earlier Saturday, an Israeli military spokesman warned Lebanese authorities not to allow protesters to breach the border.

A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed the building's owner, Jawwad Mahdi, pleading over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer to wait 10 minutes to allow journalists to go inside the building to retrieve valuable equipment before it is bombed.

'All I'm asking is to let four people ... to go inside and get their cameras,' he said. 'We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don't allow it, but give us 10 minutes.' When the officer rejected the request, Mahdi said, 'You have destroyed our life's work, memories, life. I will hang up, do what you want. There is a God.'

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.   

Some press freedom advocates said the strike raised suspicions that Israel was trying to hinder coverage of the conflict. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded Israel 'provide a detailed and documented justification' for the strike.

'This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the spectre that the Israel Defence Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza,' the group's executive director, Joel Simon, said in a statement.

The strike on a building known to have the offices of international media outlets came as a shock to reporters who had felt relatively protected there.

'Now, one can understand the feeling of the people whose homes have been destroyed by such kind of air attacks,' Al-Jazeera producer Safwat al-Kahlout, who was at the bureau in Gaza when the evacuation warning came, told the broadcaster Saturday. 

'It's really difficult to wake up one day and then you realise that your office is not there with all the career experiences, memories that you've had.'

The New York Times joined other news organizations in expressing alarm about the targeting of al-Jalaa tower. 

'The ability of the press to report on the ground is a profoundly important issue that has an impact on everyone.' the newspaper's vice president of communications, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said. 

'A free and independent press is essential to helping to inform people, bridge differences and end the conflict.' 

Both news organisations have demanded an explanation for the airstrikes, which also sparked widespread protests across the United States. Model Bella Hadid was seen among those on the streets of Brooklyn. 

Groups gathered to show solidarity with Palestinians in cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Montreal and Dearborn, Michigan on Saturday.

About two thousand people turned out in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, chanting 'Free, free Palestine' and 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.'

They waved Palestinian flags and held placards that read 'End Israeli Apartheid' and 'Freedom for Gaza.'

Many protesters wore black and white, and red and white, keffiyeh scarves, while drivers sounded car horns and motorcyclists revved their engines as the sun beat down.   

Several Jewish people attended, carrying placards that said 'Not in my name' and 'Solidarity with Palestine' as the protesters took over a street in the area which has a large Arab population.

A few dozen police officers looked on at the peaceful protest, dubbed 'Defend Palestine. 

BOSTON: Thousands gather during a rally to support Palestine at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday

LOS ANGELES: Demonstrators holding signs and the flag of Palestine march to the Israeli Consulate during a protest against Israel and in support of Palestinians during the current conflict in the Middle East, in the Westwood area of LA

Bella Hadid joins with protestors Brooklyn to demonstrate in support of Palestinians in New York on Saturday

NEW YORK CITY: Activists supporting Palestine block traffic on Interstate 278 Saturday, in New York

BOSTON: Thousands of protesters rally to support Palestine at Copley Square on May 15, calling for an end to international and US funding of the Israeli military

BOSTON: Protesters held placards calling on the US and international community to grant and protect Palestinian freedom

BROOKLYN: Protests are taking place worldwide against Israel as a result of recently escalated actions towards the Palestinian people

BROOKLYN: People gather in Brooklyn to demonstrate in support of Palestinians in New York City

WASHINGTON D.C.: Jewish demonstrators show their solidarity with Palestinians over the ongoing conflict with Israel

DEARBORN, MICHIGAN: Protestors speak out against the Israeli army in Gaza as well as the forced removal of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem

BROOKLYN: The Gowanus Expressway was blocked because of the protests on Saturday night 

Thousands rally in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to stand with Palestinians calling for the end of what they see as an illegal occupation by Israel 

Some Orthodox Jews also appeared to show support for the Palestinian community by attending rallies in Brooklyn, New York, on Nabka Day on Saturday

Some protesters walked onto Interstate 278 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, shutting down traffic in at least in one direction on Saturday night

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