Israel justified its targeting of Al-Jalaa Tower, where international media headquarters were located in the Gaza Strip, during the last war, by saying that Hamas was using it to confuse the Iron Dome system that protects Israeli territory from the rockets of the Palestinian resistance.
The tower housed foreign media agencies and channels, including the US Associated Press and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network.
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, gave a clarification in New York about the attack on the tower. He also offered to help rebuild the Associated Press offices in Gaza.
The agency welcomed contact with the Israelis, but said that it had not yet seen evidence to support Israeli allegations that the tower was used to jam the Iron Dome.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not commented on Israel’s allegations.
The latest conflict began after weeks of escalating tension between Israelis and Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, culminating in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and clashes at a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
Hamas intervened from Gaza and demanded that Israel withdraw from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, and fired rockets at Israel, which responded with retaliatory air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
The military escalation between the two sides lasted 11 days, leaving 256 dead in Gaza, according to the United Nations, and 13 dead in Israel, before the armistice and ceasefire agreement was agreed on May 21.
The United Nations said that at least 128 of the dead in Gaza were civilians, while the Israeli army said that 200 of the dead were activists of armed Palestinian resistance factions.
The head of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, estimated the death toll among the factions at about 80.
“Expose all evidence”
In the aftermath of the attack on Al-Jalaa Tower on May 15, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera asked for clarification from the Israeli government.
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations went to the Associated Press offices in New York on Monday, and the Israel Defense Forces issued a statement on Tuesday.
Erdan told executives at the US News Agency that the Al-Jalaa Tower in Gaza was used by Hamas to develop an electronic jamming system against Iron Dome.
He said that Israel did not suspect that Associated Press employees “were aware that a secret Hamas unit was using the building in this way.”
Erdan said that Israel “supports the importance of press freedom,” adding, “Israel is ready to help the Associated Press rebuild its offices and operations in Gaza.”
The IDF statement said that Hamas had been using the building to carry out the operations of Sigint (espionage and interception of signals), Elint (gathering information from signals using sensors), and EW (electronic warfare).
More than 3,000 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza during the conflict. The Israeli military says Iron Dome intercepted 90 percent of them.
The Associated Press told the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, that it welcomed the meeting with Erdan and his offer to rebuild. But she added that the Israeli authorities confirm that the building that houses our office was destroyed due to the presence of Hamas, which posed an urgent threat. “We have not yet received evidence to support these allegations,” he said.
The Associated Press stressed that it is still calling for the disclosure of all evidence held by the Israelis “so that the facts are public.”
Shortly after the airstrike, the Associated Press’s executive editor, Sally Busby, said she had had offices in the building for 15 years and had no indication that Hamas might be there.
Qatar’s Al-Jazeera channel strongly condemned the attack, and said it would do its utmost to “hold the Israeli government responsible for its actions.”
She denounced what she described as “a clear action to prevent journalists from performing their sacred duty to inform the world of what is going on and report events on the ground.”
US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, was among those who demanded an explanation from Israel.
Israel gave an hour before the airstrike on the 12-storey building, allowing for evacuation.
A ceasefire has held in the area since then, and the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to investigate the violence, a move Palestinians welcomed.
But Israel said the move showed an “anti-obsession”. The United States said the move would jeopardize progress in bringing calm to the region.