Press advocates condemn Israeli missile strike on media building

The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other press advocates condemned the Israeli airstrike on Saturday that blew up the building housing them and other media outlets.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement that the company was “shocked and horrified” by the military strike.

"They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there," Pruitt said. "We received a warning that the building would be hit."

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Reporters for the AP and Al Jazeera were forced to evacuate the 12-story building after the owner was warned that it would be targeted. Israeli forces struck the building an hour later, causing it to completely collapse.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) defended the move on Twitter, saying that the militia group Hamas often uses high-rise buildings for intelligence operations, communications and planning attacks. Israel's air force also accused Hamas of using civilian media offices as "human shields."

Pruitt said the AP was seeking information from the Israeli government and is “engaged with the U.S. State Department to try and learn more.” He said a dozen journalists and freelancers for the news organization were able to evacuate “just in time.”

“This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” Pruitt said. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.” 

Al Jazeera issued a separate statement condemning the bombing “in the strongest possible terms,” saying it viewed the strike as a “clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground.”

“Al Jazeera promises to pursue every available route to hold the Israeli government responsible for its actions,” the Qatar-funded media company said.

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Mostefa Souag, acting director general of the Al Jazeera Media Network, asserted that the strike was meant to "silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza."

Other press advocates condemned the bombing of the building. Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the attack “raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

“We demand that the Israeli government provide a detailed and documented justification for this military attack on a civilian facility given the possible violation of international humanitarian law,” Simon said. “Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it.”