- A tower in Gaza that contains several apartments and other offices, including AFP and Al Jazeera media outlets, has collapsed after a missile strike.
- The building owner says he had been warned in advance of an impending Israeli missile strike, and the building had been evacuated.
- According to AFP, he was given an hour by an officer from Israel Intelligence to ensure the building’s evacuation is completed.
A 13-storey Gaza tower block housing the offices of the US-based Associated Press and Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera collapsed on Saturday after being struck by Israeli missiles, a Reuters witness and an AFP said.
Israel “destroyed Jala Tower in the Gaza Strip, which contains the Al Jazeera and other international press offices,” Al Jazeera said in a tweet, with an AP journalist saying the army had warned the tower’s owner ahead of the strike.
Al Jazeera broadcast footage showing the building collapsing to the ground after the Israeli air strike, sending up a huge mushroom cloud of dust and debris.
“This is a very personal moment for all of us. The idea that the place is not there anymore is extraordinary to contemplate” – Harry Fawcett, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent.
Israel bombs building housing Al Jazeera and @AP media.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 15, 2021
Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, said an Israeli intelligence officer warned him he had just one hour to ensure the evacuation of the building.
In a phone call with the officer, AFP heard him beg for an extra 10 minutes to allow journalists to retrieve their equipment before leaving.
“Give us ten extra minutes,” he urged, but the officer on the other end of the line refused.
Wael al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Gaza told AFP: “It’s terrible, very sad, to target the Al Jazeera and other press bureaux”.
Israel alleged its “fighter jets attacked a high-rise building which hosted military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terror organisation”.
“The building also hosted offices of civilian media outlets, which the Hamas terror group hides behind and uses as human shields,” it said.
Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Monday have killed 139 people including 39 children, and wounded 1 000 more, health officials in the coastal enclave say.
The Israeli military did not immediately provide comment on the incident.
Additional reporting by AFP.
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