Netanyahu defends bombing housed Associated Press and al Jazeera offices.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended the bombing of a high-rise building, which was said to contain Hamas leadership and housed offices for both the Associated Press and al Jazeera.
Netanyahu said there “were no deaths” in the Saturday strike, citing that those inside the building were warned well in advance and that the complex was home to an “intelligence office” for the terrorist network. His comments come amid a flare-up in tensions between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, as thousands of rockets have been exchanged in what’s being called the worst spike in seven years.
“Well, we share with our American friends all that intelligence, and here’s the intelligence we had: It’s about an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, so it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” Netanyahu said of the airstrike during a segment on CBS News’s Face the Nation.
“I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries. In fact, no deaths … no people were killed,” he continued. “We, unlike Hamas, take special precautions to tell people, ‘Leave the building. Leave the premises.’ We make sure that everyone is gone before we bring down those terrorist facilities.”
Netanyahu ridiculed an Associated Press reporter who he said claimed to be “lucky” to have lived through the airstrike.
“All the journalists — I think one of the AP journalists said, ‘We were lucky to get out.’ No, you weren’t lucky to get out. It wasn’t luck. It’s because we took special pains to call people in those buildings to make sure that the premises were vacated,” he said.
Shortly after the strike, the Associated Press released a statement condemning the IDF for its “incredibly disturbing” decision, though it did admit it “received a warning” in advance.
“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said. “They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a warning that the building would be hit.”
“This is an incredibly disturbing development,” Pruitt continued. “We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building, and thankfully, we were able to evacuate them in time. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed so far in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women after a series of Sunday airstrikes that flattened three buildings in the area, according to the Associated Press. In Israel, at least eight have been pronounced dead, including a 5-year-old and a soldier. As of Saturday, more than 100 civilians were slain during the violence.
Netanyahu, who expressed regrets for the loss of life for noncombatants, said the deaths occurred because Hamas launched attacks from schools and offices, often using civilians as “shields” to attack Israel. The prime minister did not indicate any signs that the fighting would let up soon.
“Will do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet and the security of our people … we’re trying to degrade Hamas’s abilities and to degrade their will to do this again,” he said. “It will take some time. I hope it won’t take long. It’s not immediate.”
“We’re not going to just let them get away with it — neither would you. Just imagine what would have happened if you had 2,900 rockets fired on Washington and New York,” he continued.