An Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. AP’s president said the agency was “shocked and horrified” at the strike.

AP staffers and other tenants safely evacuated the building after the military telephoned a warning that the strike was imminent within an hour. Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.

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.

“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.

The building also housed the offices of Qatari-run Al-Jazeera TV, as well as residential apartments. The Israeli military said it targeted the building because it contained assets of Hamas intelligence agencies, which it said were using media offices as “human shields.” It did not provide evidence for the claims.

Hours earlier, another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, the deadliest single strike of the current conflict.

A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed the high-rise building’s owner, Jawwad Mahdi, pleading over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer for permission to wait 10 minutes so journalists could to go inside the building to retrieve valuable equipment before it was 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.”

The officer on the other end of the phone rejected the request, at which point Mahdi says: “You have destroyed our life’s work, memories, life. I will hang up. Do what you want. There is a God.”

Israeli security forces and emergency services work on a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ramat Gan, in central Israel, on Saturday. Oded Balilty/AP
Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been killed, including a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, on Saturday.

The latest outburst of violence started in Jerusalem and spread across the region over the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising, when peace talks have not taken place in years. Palestinians on Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.

U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday. But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

The strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon, after the owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that the building would be hit. 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 says. “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.”

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,” an on-air anchorwoman from Al-Jazeera English said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

The bombardment earlier Saturday struck a three-story house in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp, killing eight children aged 14 and under and two women from an extended family.

Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with her brother’s wife and three of their children. All were killed instantly, he said, except the olnly known survivor, his 5-month-old son Omar. Another son, 11-year-old Yahya, was missing.

Children’s toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble, as well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

“There was no warning,” said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor living in the same building. “You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?” he said, addressing Israel. “Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!”

Palestinians pass destruction caused by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on Saturday. Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.

A furious Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing to U.N.-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the military aims to minimize collateral damage in striking military targets. But measures it takes in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not “feasible this time.”

Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.

Gaza’s infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of breaking down further, compounding residents’ misery. The territory’s sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.

The U.N. said Gazans are already enduring daily power cuts of 8-12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The impoverished and densely populated territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of them the descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.

The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen nightly violence, with mobs from each community fighting in the streets and trashing each other’s property.

Late on Friday, someone threw a firebomb at an Arab family’s home in the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, striking two children. A 12-year-old boy was in moderate condition with burns on his upper body and a 10-year-old girl was treated for a head injury, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service.

The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks as Israel has massed troops at the frontier. U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while saying he hopes to bring the violence under control.

Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward Israel since Monday, according to the Israeli military. Most have been intercepted by anti-missile defenses, but they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused disruptions at airports and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Associated Press

1 COMMENT

  1. IT ALL STARTED WITH AN ISRAELI SETTLER STEALING AND OPENLY CLAIMING TO STEAL THE LAND OF A PALESTINIAN

    The quote of the Israeli on “If I do not steal…………..” is a lift from the Sanhedrin Talmud.The Philosophy is that Goyim and Gentiles are inept (which may be be true) and undeserving of any serious possessions (and this is NOT a ethical or righteous stand) – and so,it is BETTER,that wealth be in the hands of the Israelis !

    So the Settler,is merely following the Talmud – which SUPERSEDES TORAH and the HEBREW BIBLE,as under:

    Baba Mezia 24a . If a Jew finds an object lost by a gentile (“heathen”) it does not have to be returned. (Affirmed also in Baba Kamma 113b).
    Sanhedrin 57a. What a Jew steals from a gentile he may keep.(MY INTERPRETATION – But the Jew MIGHT make a compensation !)
    Baba Kamma 37b. The gentiles are outside the protection of the law and God has “exposed their money to Israel.”

    And the same applies to the Israeli gobbling of Palestine – as Israel is the name of Jacob,the son of Isaac !

    “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel since you have striven with god and men and have prevailed” (Genesis – 32:29).

    Israel Gobbling Palestine by deception and treachery,is all a part of the lineage of Jacob,who cheated Esau and His father Isaac ! This is Isaac the son of
    ABRAHAM the PROPHET ! But as per Maimonides,this was NOT a Cheating – as Yaweh had PROMISED Jacob’s mother that he would be the successor,and Isaac TRIED TO BREAK THAT COVENANT

    Hence,the THEFT of Jacob was justified,and so is the Israeli occupation as – BENJY IS FULFILING THE PROPHECY MADE BY YAWEH to REBECCA (the mother of Jacob !)

    The Israelis do NOT CARE for what the world THINKS – as they view the opinions of the world,as that of ESAU (the twin of Jacob)

    Mr Esau said that JACOB was RIGHTLY named JACOB,as he was a CHEAT ! (God Bless !)

    Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing” (Genesis 27:36).

    Y Israelis care a CAHOOT for the world – is that ,as per Genesis – Yaweh also came to JACOB, and promised him success and glory (AFTER HE CHEATED HIS FATHER AND BROTHER),and that the whole world will bow to his lineage (which is the state of the Jews today – so the Jews of Israel,see it as fulfiling that prophecy !)

    TREACHERY AGAINST THE JEWS,is something that Jews accept, as passe.Jacob who CHEATED his father and his brother – was ALSO CHEATED by his uncle,TO MARRY A WOMAN,who he was NOT to marry – and it was from this CHEATED MARRIAGE,with LEAH – that was lineaged 12 sons,and the 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL !

    SO THE CONCEPTION OF ISRAEL,IS BY SUBTERFUGE,AND TAKING THE RIGHTS AND PROPERTIES,OF GOYIM AND GENTILES – IS A VALID RIGHT BESTOWED ON THE JEWS,BY EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION (BY YAWEH), DEDUCTIVE INFERENCE (FROM GENESIS) AND DECONTRUCTED DIALECTICS (FROM THE TAKMUD).This EXPLAINS THE MINDSET of the Israelis !

    That is Y Maimonides calls Jacob or ISRAEL,the NOBLE DECEIVER – as HE as BLESSED BY YAWEH – just as the transgressions of Israel today – which GETS AWAY,EVERY TIME !

    UN protocols mean garbage to Israel – as Rebecca COERCED and TRAINED Jacob,to CHEAT ISAACC (the PROPHET) – BUT ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE – AS REBECCA WAS FULFILING THE PROPHECY OF YAWEH,TO REBECCA,WHEN THE TWINS WERE INSIDE HER ! SO ALL THAT ISRAEL DOES IN INTERNATIONAL LAW – MEANS NOTHING – AS THEY ARE DOING ALL,AS PER THE PROPHECY OF YAWEH TO REBECCA, ON THE DIVINE SUPREMACY,OF THE JEWS AND ISRAEL !

    GENESIS HAS COVERED ALL THE THEFT OF JACOB,IN MAGICAL SYMMETRY,BY WORDS FROM YAWEH (IN PERSON) – BLESSING JACOB TWICE.

    SUCH PERFECTION IN THEOLOGICAL SYMMETRY AND LOGIC.dindooohindoo

    It APPEARS TO BE WRITTEN IN HINDSIGHT !

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