Israel was heavily criticized last month for destroying a building in Gaza used by the media but it is now clear that the building contained electronic gear intended to jam the Iron Dome anti-Missile system.
Erdan: “Hamas places its terror machine in civilian areas”
On Tuesday, Israel Ambassador to the United Nations and United States Gilad Erdan told the Associated Press that Hamas terrorists tried to use the electronics housed in the building to disrupt Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system that was protecting Israel from the more than 4,000 rockets fired from Gaza.
Erdan assured AP that the attack was in no way intended to harm or inhibit their activities.
“AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel does not suspect its employees were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way,” Erdan said. “Israel did everything to ensure no employees or civilians were hurt during this operation. In contrast, Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in buildings being used by international media outlets.”
“I reaffirmed that Israel upholds the importance of press freedom and strives to ensure the safety of journalists wherever they are reporting,” Erdan added.
Yesterday, I visited the @AP HQ in New York to explain to top executives that the building housing their Gaza operation was being used by Hamas terrorists trying to jam the Iron Dome – that is why it was prioritize by the IDF during last month’s operation. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/3lO3SpBSTN
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) June 8, 2021
Not yet operational
According to the IDF, the building was used by Hamas for intelligence R&D and to carry out SIGINT (signals intelligence), ELINT (electronic signals intelligence), and EW (electronic warfare) operations, targeting both the Israeli army’s operational activity and civilian systems in Israel. The anti-Iron Dome electronic jamming system was still in development and had yet to be used at the time of its destruction.
“The purpose of the IDF strike was to curtail these enemy capabilities, including destroying special equipment and preventing their use during the operation. According to IDF assessments, the equipment was in the building at the time of the strike. The strike was designed to collapse the building in order to ensure the destruction of the special means,” the IDF said Tuesday.
Israel reportedly provided proof of this to the White House after the attack.
AP demanded to see proof of Israel’s claims about Hamas operations in the building.
“The Associated Press appreciates the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Erdan to discuss the attack on the building housing our Gaza bureau and Israel’s support for our efforts to rebuild the bureau,” AP said in a statement. “It was a positive and constructive conversation.”
“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. AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”
The offices of Al Jazeera and AP were in the building. The Israeli air force bombed the 12-story al-Jalaa tower on May 15 after giving the occupants a warning over one hour in advance of the airstrike by calling them personally by telephone and by roof-knocking. As such, no one was injured in the attack but the building was destroyed.
Israel was criticized for the attack with claims that this was an attempt by Israel to suppress reporting on the conflict.
“Al Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the bombing and destruction of its offices by the Israeli military in Gaza and views this as a clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground,” a statement from the media outlet read. “Al Jazeera promises to pursue every available route to hold the Israeli government responsible for its actions.”
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt released a statement condemning the attack.
“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.”
The White House was also critical of the attack. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration had told the Israelis that the safety and security of journalists was “a paramount responsibility”.