- The Washington Times
Sunday, May 16, 2021

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Sunday the Gaza airstrike that destroyed a building that was home to international press offices, saying it also housed Palestinian terrorists, while The Associated Press called for an investigation.

Mr. Netanyahu said that Israeli intelligence services shared with the Biden administration before the Saturday strike information that showed the high-rise included “an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization.”

“We shared with our American friends all that intelligence,” Mr. Netanyahu said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “Here’s the intelligence we had: It’s about Palestinian terrorists, 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 says Israelis possessed intelligence that Gaza City building that housed international press also housed Hamas offices, without offering specific proof when asked: “It is a perfectly legitimate target.” pic.twitter.com/Dg9rQ7Tkwh

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 16, 2021

AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said she wanted an independent investigation into the airstrike that leveled the al-Jalaa tower, which was evacuated beforehand after the Israel Defense Forces warned that the offices would be hit.

“We think it’s appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday — an independent investigation,” Ms. Buzbee said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

She said that the wire service had worked for 15 years out of the building, which also housed Al Jazeera offices, and that the AP had no indication that Hamas was operating out of the tower.

“We are in a conflict situation,” Ms. Buzbee said. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don’t know what that evidence is.”

Al Jazeera, which said that the Israeli military provided “no evidence to back up its claims,” demanded “immediate international action to hold Israel accountable for its deliberate targeting of journalists and the media institutions.”

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the media company was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”

“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” Mr. Pruitt said Saturday in a statement. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

He also said that the company “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” given that a dozen journalists and freelancers were inside the building, and that “thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time.”

Mr. Netanyahu said that there were no deaths because the Israeli military warned the building’s occupants first, which he described as standard practice for Israel, unlike Hamas.

“One of the I think AP journalists said, we were lucky to get out. No, you weren’t lucky to get out,” said Mr. Netanyahu. “It wasn’t luck. It’s because we took special pains to call people in those buildings, to make sure the premises were vacated.”

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the building “housed the offices of civilian media, which the terrorist organization Hamas hides behind and uses as human shields.”

“The terror organization Hamas deliberately places its military assets in the heart of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip,” said the statement in the Jerusalem Post. “Prior to the attack, the IDF warned the civilians who were in the building and gave them sufficient time to evacuate.”

The IDF also tweeted that “Hamas & Islamic Jihad used this time to take items out of the building. We were willing to pay that price to not harm any civilians.”

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