Projectile damages AFP’s Gaza bureau; IDF: Strike nearby may have caused debris

French news agency’s eight staff had evacuated south and so the bureau was empty when explosive projectile smashed in, apparently moving horizontally from east to west

This picture taken on November 3, 2023 shows a gaping hole following a strike on the Hajji building, which houses several offices including those of Agence France Presse (AFP) in Gaza City amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken on November 3, 2023 shows a gaping hole following a strike on the Hajji building, which houses several offices including those of Agence France Presse (AFP) in Gaza City amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Agence France-Presse’s Gaza City bureau was significantly damaged by a strike on the building, according to a staff member who visited as the Israeli military continues to strike terror targets in the territory. The IDF said it did not target the building but that a nearby strike may have caused debris.

AFP is the only one of the world’s three major international news agencies currently operating a live video feed from Gaza City, which has not been interrupted despite the damage.

The unmanned AFP camera broadcasting live 24/7 captured the moment of the strike, a few minutes before midday (1000 GMT) on Thursday.

An AFP employee who visited the office said an explosive projectile appeared to have entered the technician’s office in the bureau horizontally from east to west.

None of AFP’s eight staff usually based in Gaza City were in the bureau at the moment of the strike. The team was evacuated to southern Gaza on October 13, following an Israeli military order directed at residents in the north of the Hamas-run territory.

Asking a question at Secretary of State Blinken’s press conference earlier today, AFP’s Leon Bruneau described the incident as “apparently a missile strike.”

Blinken said journalists in Gaza must be protected as they report on the war.

He said journalists were “doing extraordinary work under the most dangerous conditions to tell the story to the world.”

The strike destroyed the wall opposite the window and caused significant damage to the adjacent room and other doors. It also punctured water tanks on the roof.

An Israeli military spokesman initially said the force had “checked [the report] multiple times.”

“There was no IDF strike on the building” in Gaza, he told AFP.

Following further questioning by AFP, the IDF said it had carried out a strike near the building. “According to the current information we hold, it seems that there was a IDF strike near the building to eliminate an immediate threat,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“The building was not targeted in any way by the IDF and… we do not have any record of a missed target in that strike,” the statement said. “There was an IDF strike nearby that might have caused debris.”

Israel says numerous rockets fired from the Strip have misfired and smashed into Palestinian territory, among them one that hit near a hospital in October and which Hamas blamed on Israel. Hamas claimed hundreds were killed before Israel issued evidence the explosion was caused by a rocket.

Images published by AFP on Friday showed a gaping hole in the wall of the 11-story building in the west of Gaza’s Rimal neighborhood, near the port.

“AFP condemns in the strongest possible terms this strike on its Gaza City bureau,” said Fabrice Fries, AFP chairman and chief executive.

“The location of this bureau is known to everyone and has been pointed out several times over the past few days, precisely to prevent such an attack and to allow us to continue to provide images on the ground.

“The consequences of such an attack would have been devastating if the AFP team on the ground had not evacuated the city,” said Fries.

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