Associated Press meets with Israeli ambassador over attack on Gaza building
Associated Press representatives met with Israel’s ambassador to the United States on Monday, weeks after Israeli forces conducted an airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza that housed the news service and other media outlets.
Ambassador Gilad Erdan met with AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt and Vice President of International News Ian Phillips at the news outlet’s headquarters in New York, Israel’s Embassy said in an emailed press release Tuesday.
During the meeting, Erdan defended the strike by telling the AP executives that the Palestinian militant group Hamas was building a device to jam Israel’s Iron Dome defense system within the building housing the AP’s offices.
“The unit was developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defense system,” Erdan said, according to the embassy.
Erdan further said that Israel “doesn’t think that AP employees were aware it was being cynically used in this way by Hamas for a secret unit.”
The embassy said it was the first time Israel told AP why the building “posed such an imminent threat to Israeli civilians and was prioritized by the [Israeli Defense Forces].”
The AP said in a statement on Tuesday that it appreciated the chance to meet with Erdan but asserted that it has yet to see evidence of Israel’s claims.
“Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat. We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims,” the news service said. “AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”
Israeli forces bombed the 12-story building last month during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Reporters for the AP and Al Jazeera were only given about an hour’s notice to evacuate before the building was completely flattened.
Israel had previously said that Hamas was using the building for military operations but had never mentioned the Iron Dome.
Sally Buzbee, then-AP’s executive editor, told CNN a day after the bombing that the organization had been in the building for 15 years and had not previously been warned that Hamas was in the building.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has previously said he has not seen evidence that Hamas was operating in the building.