Blinken: Israel has given us intel on strike on Gaza media tower

Secretary doesn’t comment on content of new info on bombing of high-rise used by AP, Al Jazeera, which Israel says was Hamas asset; Israel says classified intel given to Pentagon

The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, May 15, 2021. (Hatem Moussa/AP)
The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, May 15, 2021. (Hatem Moussa/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said Israel has given the United States information about its bombing of a Gaza building housing offices of The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets.

Israel on Saturday leveled the high-rise building, saying that Hamas used the tower for a military intelligence office and weapons development. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the building a “perfectly legitimate target” and told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Israel passes such evidence through intelligence channels. There were no injuries in the strike, following an advance warning from the Israeli military to those inside to evacuate.

Blinken said from Iceland on Tuesday that “we have received some further information through intelligence channels.” He declined to characterize the material, saying “that’s not something I can comment on.”

Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Israel’s defense establishment handed Pentagon officials classified intelligence pointing to Hamas military operations conducted from the Gaza high-rise.

Press freedom groups condemned the attack, which marked a new chapter in the already rocky relationship between the Israeli military and the international media.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press prior to a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 10, 2021 (SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP)

AP President Gary Pruitt has called for an independent investigation into the strike.

Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, said the news agency has had offices in the building for 15 years and was never informed or had any indication that Hamas might be in the building.

report in The Atlantic in 2014 claimed that Hamas members had repeatedly burst into the AP’s offices in the building and threatened staff, actions it asserted went unreported.

The IDF accused Hamas of hiding behind the offices of the press outlets in the tower and using them as human shields.

“The Hamas terror group intentionally locates its military assets in the hearts of civil populations in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.

Israel has struck hundreds of buildings in the Gaza Strip, including several high-rises, in response to the rocket attacks since last Monday. The military maintains that the targets it struck all housed assets of Hamas or other terror groups.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, over 200 Palestinians have died since the beginning of the fighting, 59 of them minors. Israel has said it does not target civilians, and that many of the dead were terrorists or killed by errant Hamas rockets.

On Sunday, 42 Palestinians were reported killed in the deadliest single strike since the violence erupted a week ago. The IDF said it had targeted Hamas infrastructure under the homes of Palestinian civilians.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, have been killed in the rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured.

Israel has said it intends to press on for now with its attacks against Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza. Blinken signaled Monday that the US was still not joining calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

“We have made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a ceasefire,” Blinken said during a visit to Copenhagen.

Israeli officials have indicated they believe the fighting may stop in the next day or two but have also warned the campaign could drag on.

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