The Associated Press denied any knowledge that the Jala Tower—which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike—was also being shared by Hamas, a designated terror group, as claimed by top Israeli leaders.
AP CEO Gary Pruitt issued a statement over the weekend denying that the newswire service knew Hamas terrorists were operating in the building, located in the Gaza Strip. The Jala Tower also hosted Qatar-backed media outlet Al Jazeera and other news organizations.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), however, told local media that the Jala Tower hid “military assets” belonging to Hamas and accused the group of using AP, Al Jazeera, and other news outlets in the building “as human shields.” The IDF said that “the Hamas terror group intentionally locates its military assets in the hearts of civil populations in the Gaza Strip.”
After providing advance warning to civilians & time to evacuate, IDF fighter jets struck a multi-story building containing Hamas military intelligence assets.
The building contained civilian media offices, which Hamas hides behind and deliberately uses as human shields. pic.twitter.com/zeDjEquePD
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 15, 2021
Pruitt said in a statement that he was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” alleging: “They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a warning that the building would be hit.”
According to AP, all employees and freelancers were evacuated before the building was struck.
“The Israeli government says the building contained Hamas military intelligence assets,” Pruitt said. “We have called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence. AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years.”
AP had no knowledge of Hamas being in the building, he said, and it’s “something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
In 2014, AP Jerusalem editor Matti Friedman had written about how Hamas manipulates media outlets operating within Gaza.
According to Friedman: “In previous rounds of Gaza fighting, Hamas learned that international coverage from the territory could be molded to its needs, a lesson it would implement in this summer’s war. Most of the press work in Gaza is done by local fixers, translators, and reporters, people who would understandably not dare cross Hamas, making it only rarely necessary for the group to threaten a Westerner.”
The article then continued to suggest that regarding international news outlets, they’ve historically portrayed Israel as the aggressors in prior conflicts with Palestinians.
“It’s easier to leave the other photographers out of the frame and let the picture tell the story: Here are dead people, and Israel killed them,” Friedman said.
Amid the flare-up in fighting, Israel has said that it’s defending itself after Hamas and other groups fired numerous rockets into civilian areas in recent days.
The Epoch Times has contacted the IDF for comment regarding Pruitt’s claims.