Blinken Says He Hasn’t Seen Evidence of Hamas Presence in Destroyed Gaza Tower, Calls on Hamas to End Attacks

May 17, 2021 Updated: May 17, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on May 17 that he hasn’t seen any proof so far that would corroborate the Israeli government’s assertion that the Hamas terrorist group was operating in a Gaza building where the Associated Press and other media outlets were accommodated.

An Israeli airstrike knocked down the building known as the Jala Tower on Saturday, which according to top Israeli leaders, was being used by Hamas.

Other media organizations, such as Qatar-backed media outlet Al Jazeera, also had a presence in the tower.

Blinken spoke in Copenhagen, Denmark, at a news conference, where he stated that he’s not aware of evidence that Hamas had been operating in the building and that he asked for justification from Israel.

“Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it,” Blinken said at the conference, declining to talk about specific intelligence according to The Associated Press.

Blinken said that he “will leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment that information.”

“I have not seen any information provided,” he said.

A day prior, an Associated Press editor requested an independent investigation into the airstrike.

The Secretary of State spoke with AP CEO Gary Pruitt on Saturday after the building was destroyed and according to spokesperson Ned Price, Blinken “offered his unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world and noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones. He expressed relief that the Associated Press team on the ground in Gaza remains safe.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said that they are organizing evidence for the United States, declining to pledge presentation of it in the next two days.

“We’re in the middle of fighting. That’s in process and I’m sure in due time that information will be presented,” he said on Sunday.

Over the weekend, The Associated Press denied knowledge of the terrorist group operating in the building.

Pruitt said that they didn’t have any knowledge of Hamas being in the tower, and it’s something that they “actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

Pruitt issued a statement that “We received a warning that the building would be hit.”

AP said that their employees and freelancers were evacuated before the building was shot down.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) told local media that the building had Hamas’ “military assets” hidden in it and accused them of using AP, Al Jazeera, and other media in the building  “as human shields.”

The IDF claimed that “the Hamas terror group intentionally locates its military assets in the hearts of civil populations in the Gaza Strip.”

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that they would present any evidence of Hamas being in the 12-story Jala Tower via intelligence channels.

Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, said that their organization has been operating in the building for 15 years and never saw indication that the terrorist group might be present there.

“We are in a conflict situation,” she said. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don’t know what that evidence is.”

“We think it’s appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday—an independent investigation,” Buzbee added.

In addition, Blinken said on Monday that the United States is working “intensively” to end the conflict in the Middle East, negating the idea that Washington was obstructing diplomacy at the United Nations.

Blinken also called for Hamas to end the rocket attacks.

“There is no equivalence between a terrorist group indiscriminately firing rockets at civilians and a country defending its people from those attacks, so we call on Hamas and other groups in Gaza to end the rocket attacks immediately,” Blinken said.