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Israel, which has been battling the terror group after it fired hundreds of rockets into Tel Aviv on Monday, said the militant groups were hiding behind the building and were also using it as human shields.
“The building contained civilian media offices, which the Hamas terror organisation hides behind and uses as human shields,” the Israeli Airforce said in a statement issued on its official Facebook page on Saturday.
The ICIR had reported on Saturday how the building was demolished nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the building.
The United States has called on Israel to protect and respect international media houses and their staff even as it exercises its right to self-defence and protection of its citizens.
We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) May 15, 2021
Al Jazeera has condemned the demolition and destruction of its offices. It accused Israel of trying to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground.
It has also vowed to pursue every available route to hold the Israeli government responsible for its actions.
In a similar vein, the AP said it was shocked and horrified that the building housing its offices would be targeted for demolition by the Israeli military. It noted that Israel had long known the location of “our bureau and knew journalists were there.”
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt, in a statement, called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence that Hamas was using the building for military operations.
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The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Israeli Police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on the mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired about 1,300 rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas would “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks as Israel has massed troops at the frontier. The United States President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while saying he hopes to bring the violence under control.
According to Israel, Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward its cities since Monday. Anti-missile defences have intercepted most, but they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused disruptions at airports, and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
It accused Hamas of deliberately placing military targets at the heart of densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women. On the other hand, in Israel, eight people have died, including a man killed by a rocket that hit Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv In Gaza, on Saturday.
The escalation has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.
A family of six were reportedly killed in their house by an Israeli airstrike, sending thousands fleeing to UN refugee camps on Friday.
The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes, destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas.
The Israeli military Spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said the military aimed to minimise collateral damage in striking military targets, stressing that measures taken in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not ‘feasible this time.’
The military also claimed that the civilian casualties were many in Gaza due to rockets misfired by the militant groups.
The United Nations has continued to call for a cease-fire between the warring parties.
US Diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the UN Security Council is set to meet Sunday.