- Blinken said he hasn’t seen evidence to back up Israel’s bombing of a Gaza building housing AP and Al Jazeera offices.
- “I have not seen any information provided,” Blinken said on Monday.
- Israel said Hamas operated out of the building, making it a legitimate target.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said he hasn’t seen any evidence to bolster Israel’s justification for leveling a Gaza building that housed offices for prominent media outlets like the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
The Israeli government said Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, was operating out of the building that was destroyed on Saturday.
“I have not seen any information provided,” Blinken said at a press conference in Denmark.
“Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it,” Blinken said, adding that he “will leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment of that information.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday was asked on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” whether it had shared intelligence with the US to back up the government’s claims. “Well, we pass it through the intelligence services to our people, to those people,” Netanyahu said.
“We share with our American friends all that intelligence and here’s the intelligence we had, it’s about Palestinian terrorist – an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. So it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” Netanyahu said. “And I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries. In fact, no deaths, no injuries whatsoever.”
Netanyahu made these remarks in response to a question on a Jerusalem Post story that citing anonymous officials in Jerusalem stating that the US had been shown a “smoking gun” proving Hamas worked out of the building.
The Israeli leader underscored that Hamas has fired “thousands of rockets and missiles on our cities.”
Israel has responded to the rocket attacks by pummeling Gaza with airstrikes. The Israeli military has also said that its Iron Dome defense system has intercepted a majority of the rockets fired at Israel.
Since the fighting began last week, at least 200 people in Gaza have been killed, including 59 children and 35 women, BBC News reported, citing Gaza’s health ministry. At least 10 people in Israel, including two children, have been killed by the rocket attacks.
Amid the escalating violence, Israel has leveled multiple large buildings with strikes – including the tower housing AP and Al Jazeera offices on Saturday. Human rights groups have warned that Israel’s tactic of leveling buildings where civilians are located could constitute war crimes.
AP and Al Jazeera denounced Israel over the strike and called for an independent investigation.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt in a statement said the publication was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”
Pruitt added, “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”
Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, on Sunday told CNN that AP never had an indication that Hamas was operating out of the building.
“We are in a conflict situation,” said Buzbee. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don’t know what that evidence is.”
“We think it’s appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday – an independent investigation,” she added.
-Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 16, 2021
Dr Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, in a statement called on the international community to “hold Israel accountable for its deliberate targeting of journalists and the media institutions.”
“The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza,” Souag went on to say.
Joel Simon, executive director of Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement said Saturday’s strike “on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”
“We demand that the Israeli government provide a detailed and documented justification for this military attack on a civilian facility given the possible violation of international humanitarian law,” Simon added. “Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it.”