An Israeli airstrike demolished an 11-story building in Gaza City Saturday that housed international media offices, including Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera bureaus.
The Al-Jalaa tower collapsed after being struck by at least three missiles, according to Al Jazeera. No casualties among the civilians have been reported, as Israeli authorities had ordered people to evacuate an hour before the airstrike.
⭕ LIVE footage of the moment an Israeli air raid bombed the offices of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press in Gaza City ⬇️
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 15, 2021
The building allegedly hosted “military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terror organisation,” Israeli authorities said in a statement reported by Al Jazeera.
“When Hamas places military assets inside such a building, it becomes a lawful military target. This is clear international law,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted following the air raid. The IDF also claimed that it had taken “steps to try and ensure that civilians would not be harmed.”
“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,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement.
“They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there… This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” Pruitt added. “A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time.”
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” Pruitt concluded. (RELATED: How The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Dividing Democrats)
Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the demolished tower, said he was told by an Israeli intelligence officer that he had just one hour to fully evacuate the building, which housed not only the media bureaus, but also a number of residential apartments and other offices, France 24 reported.
A video captured Mehdi talking to an Israeli intelligence officer over the phone minutes before the air raid. The building owner was imploring the officer to delay the strike for an extra 10 minutes so that journalists could retrieve their equipment before leaving.
WATCH: The owner of al-Jalaa tower pleads with an Israeli officer on live TV to let journalists collect their gear before he bombs it.
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) May 15, 2021
“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Saturday tweet.