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Sabtu, 15 Mei 2021

Israeli airstrike demolishes Gaza tower housing Associated Press, Al Jazeera offices - The Australian

The Jala Tower, housing foreign media, is bombed to the ground in Gaza city. Picture: AFP
The Jala Tower, housing foreign media, is bombed to the ground in Gaza city. Picture: AFP

Israel’s military destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed the offices of several international media outlets, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, while Hamas fired scores more rockets targeting Tel Aviv and other areas in Israel on Saturday.

Palestinians clashed for a second day with Israeli forces across the occupied West Bank as they protested against Israel’s shelling of Gaza. At least 78 Palestinians were injured, some from live fire, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Israel’s military said the high-rise building was used by Hamas’s military intelligence services, and its jet fighters targeted it after warning residents to evacuate. Representatives for Israel’s military and Hamas didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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“We are shocked and horrified,” AP President and Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life.”

He said a dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and all were evacuated. “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza today because of what happened,” Mr. Pruitt said.

Smoke billows as a bomb is dropped on the Jala Tower during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza city on May 15. Picture: AFP
Smoke billows as a bomb is dropped on the Jala Tower during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza city on May 15. Picture: AFP

Wael Al-Dahdouh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera who worked in the building, said he had just a half-hour to gather his things before scrambling to get out.

“The stairs were like an ant farm,” he said. “We carried only the essentials of our equipment. Then two reconnaissance missiles followed by three explosive missiles made the building a thing of the past.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Washington had told the Israeli government that the safety of journalists was “a paramount responsibility.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Biden in a phone call Saturday that Israel was doing all it can to prevent civilian casualties when striking high-rises in Gaza, according to a statement from his office. This was the second time Messrs Biden and Netanyahu have spoken in the past three days.

An Israeli airstrike demolished a high-rise building in Gaza Saturday that houses international media, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Israel’s military said the building was used by Hamas’s military intelligence services. Photo: Mahmud Hams/Press Pool

Mr. Biden also spoke over the phone Saturday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Biden told Mr. Abbas that he was working to end the violence, according to a readout of the conversation published by the Palestinian Authority’s official news outlet Wafa. This was the first time the two shave spoken since Mr. Biden took office in January.

The strike on the high-rise comes as Israel’s military presses its air and artillery campaign against Hamas, which rules Gaza, by hitting what it said were dozens of its military sites. They included rocket-launching sites, intelligence infrastructure, underground tunnels and apartments used by senior militants, the military said.

The violence comes amid efforts by the U.S., European Union and other regional powers, including Egypt and Qatar, to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

A U.S. official, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel on a military plane Friday to try to de-escalate the crisis. The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss the situation.

A plume of heavy black smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City from a fire caused by Israeli air strikes on May 15. Picture: AFP
A plume of heavy black smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City from a fire caused by Israeli air strikes on May 15. Picture: AFP

The U.S. is working with Egypt and Qatar to urge Hamas to immediately stop its rocket fire into Israel, an official familiar with the matter said. The U.S. doesn’t have direct contact with Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organisation. A small group of senior Egyptian officials are seen as the key to getting Hamas to comply with a truce, the official added.

Israel has publicly rejected a ceasefire, while Hamas leaders have sent mixed signals.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s settlement affairs minister who is close to Mr. Netanyahu, denied there was pressure from the U.S. to quickly end its operations in Gaza, in an interview Saturday evening on Channel 12.

Mr. Hanegbi said Israel’s army was carrying out an operation it had planned for years and would continue until Israel was confident Hamas would be deterred from attacking the country for many years.

At least 140 Gazans have been killed since the escalation began on Monday, including 39 children, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Palestinian authorities said at least 10 members of the Abu-Hatab family, including eight children, were killed Friday night by an Israeli airstrike on their home in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. Israel said it had targeted senior Hamas officials in that strike and was reviewing the incident.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Picture: AFP
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Picture: AFP

“It was shocking when we found our neighbour’s house in rubble,” said Ahmad Massoud, a neighbour of the Abu-Hatab family. “There was an aura of death inside us.” Hamas officials said a rocket attack on central Israel on Saturday was a response to the Israeli strike.

Israel says its attacks have killed more than 75 militants and that at least some civilian deaths in Gaza were caused by the 350 rockets fired at Israel that fell short and landed within the Palestinian enclave. Hamas has fired more than 2,700 rockets at Israel since Monday, Israeli officials said.

At least 11 Israelis have died, including one man killed on Saturday by a rocket that landed in Tel Aviv suburb Ramat Gan, according to the military. The death toll includes a soldier killed by an antitank missile and an elderly woman who died while running to a bomb shelter. The other Israelis were killed by rocket fire from Gaza.

The fighting is the most intense since the most recent of three wars, in 2014. It began with Palestinian protests over the possible forced removal of residents from homes that are also claimed by Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem. Israeli police stormed a mosque during a crackdown on protesters, who threw stones and aimed fireworks back. Hamas then fired a salvo of rockets into Israel.

As the fighting intensifies, violence has spread within Israel’s borders and in the occupied West Bank.

At least 11 people were killed on Friday as Israeli forces fired on Palestinians who were protesting across the West Bank against Israel’s shelling of Gaza, according to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry. Israel’s military described the protests as violent and said that Palestinians had attempted to harm Israeli civilians.

A Palestinian man takes a photograph with his mobile phone of a building hit and destroyed during an Israeli Air strike in Gaza City, on May 15. Picture: AFP
A Palestinian man takes a photograph with his mobile phone of a building hit and destroyed during an Israeli Air strike in Gaza City, on May 15. Picture: AFP

Tensions in the West Bank remained high on Saturday, with more violent clashes, as Palestinians commemorated “Nakba Day,” or “Day of the Catastrophe,” the day after the date of Israel’s 1948 founding.

Hamas, which has sought to gain prominence in the West Bank, urged Palestinians in the occupied territory and Arabs in Israel to continue their confrontations with Israelis.

“The integration of the fronts in the West Bank, Gaza and 48 are the keys to victory,” said Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri, using the term 48 as a nickname for Israel.

The Fatah Party of Palestinian Authority President Abbas on Saturday also called on Palestinians in the West Bank from every town, village and refugee camp to confront Israeli forces wherever possible.

The Wall Street Journal

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2021-05-15 21:13:45Z
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