On the afternoon of Saturday, May 15, a representative of Israel’s military called the owner of the al-Jalaa building in Gaza City, a 12-story multi-use building which housed the administrative offices of several media outlets, including the International Associated Press (AP) and the TV network Al-Jazeera. The owner was informed that an airstrike had been ordered on the building “within the hour.”
Fortunately, the owner acted swiftly, and alerted everyone in the building, including residents of the dozen or so apartments on the lower floors. Everyone was evacuated within 15 minutes, just before three Israeli missiles hit the building and destroyed it entirely.
The justification from Israel was that there had been a Hamas presence in the building, using the presence of the media as human shields without their knowledge.
“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.”
No proof or evidence of Hamas presence was provided, either before the airstrike or after.
The White House “raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection,” in a statement about the strike, but refused to condemn the action, or the Israeli airstrike earlier that day which struck in the center of a densely populated Palestinian refugee camp, killing mostly children. Again, Israel claimed it was a Hamas stronghold but declined to allow any verification of that claim.
The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Palestine began just over a week ago after Israeli armed forces began forcibly relocating Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to refugee camps during Ramadan. A violent altercation between worshipers at Aqsa mosque and Israeli police became the first of many riots in this fresh wave of escalating violence.
A ceasefire on both sides was agreed to and began in the early hours of Friday morning. As of the writing of this article, the ceasefire has held. The 11 days of violence have claimed over 200 lives, including dozens of children–mostly in Gaza.
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