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'Targeting journalists is a war crime': Reactions to Israeli forces destroying building with media offices

"The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today."
Published 15 May, 2021 08:30pm

An Israeli airstrike targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed offices of The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets — only hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children.

There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt's statement called it an "incredibly disturbing development".

"We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time," read the statement.

"The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today."

Al Jazeera producer Linah Alsaafin tweeted that Israel had given a “warning” that it "will bomb the building that houses Al Jazeera offices and other international media channels in Gaza City in one hour [...] our colleagues have already evacuated".

Middle East Eye, whose office was also inside the building, shared a video of the owner reportedly talking to an Israeli officer on live TV to let journalists collect their gear before the bombing.

'A war crime'

As strong reactions and condemnations started to surface following the attack by Israel, many, including US lawmaker Mike Siegel, pointed out that targeting journalists was a war crime.

Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon said this attack "raises the spectre that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza".

The non-profit organisation said it was "utterly unacceptable for Israel to bomb and destroy the offices of media outlets and endanger the lives of journalists".

"Israeli authorities know where media outlets are housed."

Journalist Ghazala Irshad pointed out that this was another violation of international law and ultimately, an attack on a free press. "Perhaps this is 'self-defense' against being documented for war crimes?"

Speak up in solidarity

The Guardian columnist Owen Jones called for journalistic solidarity, saying if it means anything, "it should mean, at the bare minimum, unreservedly speaking out about Israel wiping out the building housing media organisations".

"If televised ethnic cleansing and press towers being blown up isn't worthy of European condemnation, Europe has no role in the coming century," said writer Fatima Bhutto.

Author Vincent Bevins said the IDF was carrying out such attacks "because they know they can get away with it".

"To be effective, the international response must go far beyond the usual hand-wringing," he urged.

'Media will not be silenced'

"The only reason to deliberately attack a building housing international media is to try to obstruct the media from covering what’s happening," wrote journalist Rania Khalek, calling the bombing "intentional and premeditated".

Senior journalist Owais Tohid said the story of Gaza "cannot be silenced by Israeli attacks on media".

'Horrific'

AP's Gaza correspondent Fares Akram shared his experience during the airstrikes as reactions continued to pour in.