US secretary of state ‘not seen evidence’ Hamas were operating in media tower block destroyed by airstrike

AP and Al Jazeera offices were demolished in weekend airstrike

Zoe Tidman
Monday 17 May 2021 13:57
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Anthony Blinken said the US has asked for additional details on justification of strike
Anthony Blinken said the US has asked for additional details on justification of strike

The US secretary of state has said he has not seen any Israeli evidence that Hamas was operating out of a tower block hit by an airstrike over the weekend, destroying media offices and apartments in the Gaza Strip building.

Associated Press, an American company, and Al Jazeera staff were given an hour to vacate their offices, before an Israeli strike hit the tower on Saturday.

The Israeli military said the attack on the tower block - which sparked a backlash from press and human rights groups - was due to Hamas having a military intelligence office in the building.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said on Monday he had not yet seen any evidence from Israel for this.

He said he had asked Israel for justification of the airstrike on the al-Jalaa tower block, which contained offices - including for media outlets - and apartments.

It comes after Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, claimed the building was a “perfectly legitimate target”.

Speaking to CBS on Sunday, he renewed his claim the Gaza building housed a Hamas office but gave no evidence.

Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas presence in a call on Saturday with Joe Biden, Mr Netanyahu said: “We pass it through our intelligence people.

However, on Monday, Mr Blinken said: “Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it.”

He declined to discuss specific intelligence, saying he “will leave it to others to characterise if any information has been shared and our assessment that information”.

He added: “I have not seen any information provided.”

The president of Associated Press called for the Israeli government to “put forward the evidence”.

“AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” Gary Pruitt said.

“This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

As well as saying Hamas were in the building, Israel’s military accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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