White House calls on Israel, urging that the “safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.”
Israel came under heavy criticism on Saturday for striking a 12-story tower in Gaza housing the offices of foreign media affiliates such as the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other news outlets. The United States government, AP and Al Jazeera each publicly expressed their concerns with the operation moments after the strike.
The IAF struck the high-rise building, which also housed a number of apartments and various offices, because it contained “military assets of the military intelligence” of Hamas hiding under the guise of the foreign media outlets, an IDF spokesperson said.
“The building housed the offices of civilian media, which the terrorist organization Hamas hides behind and uses as human shields,” the IDF said in a statement. “The terror organization Hamas deliberately places its military assets in the heart of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. Prior to the attack, the IDF warned the civilians who were in the building and gave them sufficient time to evacuate.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the United States had contacted Israel, imploring them to ensure the “safety and security of journalists” after the high-rise was destroyed.
“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility,” Psaki wrote on Twitter.
In light of the attack on the building, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed on Saturday night his “unwavering support” to Associated Press president and CEO Garry Pruitt, noting the “indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones.”
The AP and Al Jazeera had each expressed their concerns in harsher words, condemning the airstrike in the strongest terms.
Pruitt called the strike “an incredibly disturbing development.” He said a dozen AP journalists and freelancers had been in the building, but had been evacuated in time.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”
The acting director-general of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network, Dr. Mostefa Souag, called the strike “barbaric” and said Israel should be held accountable.
“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.
The spokesman for the IDF’s International Media Branch, Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus, rejected the notion that Israel was seeking to silence the media. “That is totally false, the media is not the target,” he told Reuters.
Hamas later warned the residents of Tel Aviv and central Israel to expect a response for that airstrike.