The Whole Truth About the Israeli Strike on the Building Housing the AP and Al Jazeera Offices in Gaza

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Israel continues its attacks on Hamas, which began on May 10, and a week later numbered close to 800 airstrikes, while in the same period Hamas had launched nearly 3,250 rockets toward Israel. Neither shows any signs of wanting a ceasefire. On Saturday, the IAF hit the Jala tower, which contained offices of Hamas’ military intelligence, and its research and weapons development unit, as well as the offices of AP and Al Jazeera. The story of this latest installment in the Gaza war is here: “IDF Attacks Gaza Rocket Launchers, Houses of Senior Hamas Leaders,” Algemeiner, May 15, 2021:

The IDF struck on Saturday terrorist rocket launchers in central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip, the military said in a statement.

Some of the launch sites hit in the strikes were located underground, the military added.

Other targets hit by the IDF recently include the Jala tower in Gaza, which hosted the Hamas military intelligence as well as foreign media outlets.  

The attack drew rebukes from the Associated Press and al-Jazeera, which both had their offices located in the high-rise, and drew the attention of the White House.  

According to the IDF, the building, now razed, had hosted the research and development unit of Hamas, which was using some of the most advanced technology available to the group. The unit had conducted multiple acts of sabotage against Israel’s military and civilians, the army added.  

Other Hamas bodies also had their offices in the building, the army asserted.  

The IDF also confirmed attacks on the house owned by Khalil al-Hayya, deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau.

The army also hit the homes of two Hamas military commanders on Saturday— Tisar Mabasher, a battalion commander in Khan Yunis and Azi Tama’a, a brigadier general in Deir al-Balah — and by Tuesday, May 18,  it had hit the homes of seven more Hamas commanders, some of which had been used to warehouse weapons and to plan terror attacks.  

The American television networks showed the collapse of the Jala tower in Gaza. It was quite an impressive sight, as the twelve-story building first crumpled at the top, and then collapsed in upon itself. “Israelis hit building with media offices,” said all the networks. So did the headlines in the newspapers. So did the titles of the online stories about attack. None of them chose to tell their audiences that the reason Israel hit the Jala building had nothing to do with the media offices. It was an attack whose target was the R&D unit of Hamas devoted to advanced weapons development and also targeted Hamas intelligence offices. Yet here are a representative sampling of the headlines about the attack on the Jala building:

Israeli Airstrike Destroys Gaza Building That Housed AP, Al-Jazeera Offices

Israeli forces destroy media outlets’ Gaza base, claiming it housed ‘Hamas military intelligence’  

Israeli Strike In Gaza Destroys Building That Housed AP, Other Media  

That, and that alone, was what the American media focused on: those mad-dog Israelis were now trying to put AP and Al Jazeera out of commission because they didn’t want the truth to be told about the IDF’s tactics in Gaza. War crimes! Cover-up! You get the idea. Only deep in their stories did they mention that the Jala building also housed what they described as “Hamas intelligence offices,” or so “Israel claims.” It would have been more correct to say this: “The Jala building housed the research and development unit of Hamas which used some of the most advanced weapons technology available to the group.The unit had conducted multiple acts of sabotage against Israel’s military and civilians.” And conscientious reporters would have added that “Hamas deliberately placed these offices  in the same building as AP and other media, believing that the presence of the latter would keep Israel from attacking the structure. They were wrong. Israel did, as is its practice, everything to warn people inside the building to leave. It even gave them a warning a full hour before the attack, so that they could evacuate the premises in time.”

This warning by Israel was mentioned only in a very few of the reports on radio and television – a curious omission. No one would know, from the media coverage, that it is Israel’s standard practice to warn the inhabitants of buildings it is intending to strike so that they can get out in time. Israel employs many methods: mass leafleting, telephone calls (as the call it made to Jawad Mahdi, the owner of the Jala building, telling him occupants had an hour to leave), and the “knock-on-the-roof” technique Israel invented to warn Palestinians to leave buildings that were about to be hit. What other army, as Col. Richard Kemp has asked, as a matter of course tries to make sure that everyone has time to flee the buildings it attacks, even if that means letting many high-value targets also get away?

Using such methods, Israel has managed to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. After seven days of fighting, with almost 800 strikes by airplanes on Gaza targets, only 197 Palestinians have been killed. A dozen of them are believed to have been hit by Hamas’ own rockets, that were launched at Israel, but fell short, landing inside the Strip. Of the remaining number, according to Israel, about 140 are believed to have been members of Hamas, including about ten commanders, as well as three PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) commanders. That means that about 50 Palestinian civilians, at most, had been killed, testimony to Israel’s great efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Those civilian casualties are a direct result of Hamas’ practice of storing its weaponry, its launching pads, its hideouts for its fighters, in the midst of civilian areas, inside apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, and mosques. Israel does its best to minimize civilian casualties among the Arabs, while Hamas does its best to increase them.

It is misleading, because incomplete, to claim that Israel “destroyed a building that housed AP and Al Jazeera” as headlines all over the world have proclaimed. Here’s how the stories about Israel’s attack on the Jala building ought to have read, beginning with the following headline: Israel Takes Down Building Housing Hamas’ Intelligence and R &D Weapons Units.” The story should then continue: “Having given the occupants an hour to leave, Israel hit the 12-story Jala building, which housed a top-secret unit of Hamas, which was developing some of the most advanced technology available to the group. The unit had conducted multiple acts of sabotage against Israel’s military and civilians. Hamas’ military intelligence offices were another target in the building. Also destroyed in the attack were the offices of the AP and Al Jazeera, which were never the intended target; they were collateral damage, and the IDF made sure, by telephoning the owner of the building, that all those living or working in the building, including both journalists, and the Hamas intelligence officers and weapons scientists, had ample warning – a full hour — to evacuate the building.”

That’s an improvement. That ensures that the focus remains fixed on Hamas’ R&D and intelligence offices, and not on the media offices that suffered as a result of the Jala building collapse. We have seen the querulous CEO of AP, Mr. Pruitt, who thinks that Israel did a terrible thing in attacking the building housing the advanced weapons development unit of the Hamas terrorist group because, unavoidably, other offices, including those of the AP and other media companies, were also destroyed. Al Jazeera has been similarly indignant. But both AP and Al Jazeera journalists were perfectly aware that their offices were in the same building as Hamas, that they were being used as human shields by Hamas, and that they could have moved away to safer quarters but chose not to.

Matti Friedman, who worked for the AP in Gaza City until 2014, has said that the AP was well aware of the Hamas offices in the same building. And the AP journalists could see rockets being launched at Israel from the building right next door to the Jala tower. It was obvious that the AP was being used as a hostage, to prevent Israel from destroying the building in which offices critical to Hamas’ war-making were located. What changed by 2021 to make Israel decide it had to bomb the Jala building? What changed was apparently the increased success of Hamas’ advanced weapons development office, and of its intelligence office – both in the Jala building – and the consequent greater need for Israel to destroy both. An hour before the attack, Israel warned everyone in the building to leave; as a consequence, no media journalists were hurt nor, for that matter, were any of those Hamas operatives who worked in the building. “Israel showed US ‘smoking gun’ on Hamas in AP office tower, officials say,” by Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2021

Israel shared intelligence with the US showing how Hamas operated inside the same building with the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera in Gaza, officials in Jerusalem said on Sunday.

Officials in more than one government office confirmed that US President Joe Biden’s phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday was, in part, about the bombing of the building, and that Israel showed Biden and American officials the intelligence behind the action.

“We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a senior diplomatic source said. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the source’s remark, when asked about The Jerusalem Post’s reporting in an interview with US TV show Face the Nation.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, having said in Copenhagen on Monday that he had not seen any evidence from Israel about Hamas offices in the Jala tower, announced from Reykyavik on Tuesday that, in fact, Israel had provided the American government with evidence of Hamas offices in the tower. Blinken said that “we have received some further information through intelligence channels.” He declined to characterize the material, saying “that’s not something I can comment on.”  

Meanwhile, AP’s executive editor (who has been named the Washington Post’s
executive editor starting June 1), Sally Buzbee, has demanded an “independent investigation” into Israel’s attack on the Jala building. But neither the Israeli nor the American governments will agree; the sources and methods of Israeli intelligence are not going to be revealed to the world just because the AP is indignant over the destruction of its Gaza offices. 

 In his most recent telephone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Biden spoke of the desirability of a “ceasefire.” That’s the first time he’s mentioned that possibility.  But he didn’t go further: he didn’t, thank god, “demand” that Israel agree to a ceasefire. He knows full well that the Israelis mean it when they say they will continue fighting until no more rockets are launched by Hamas at Israel. And while he mentioned his concern over mounting civilian casualties, he didn’t press the point. He’s well aware that those civilian casualties in Gaza are a direct result of Hamas’ deliberate policy of placing weapons inside civilian buildings. He reiterated his support for Israel’s “right to defend itself.” So far, he continues to enrage the anti-Israel left-wing of his party: Sanders, Warren, Murphy, Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Octavio-Cortez. That’s a good sign. 

First published in Jihad Watch.


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